Group D: Persepolis FC (IRN) 2-0 Al Sadd SC (QAT)
Tehran: Persepolis FC ended their 2019 AFC Champions League Group D campaign on a high as the Iranian champions beat Qatar's Al Sadd SC 2-0 on Monday.
Having already secured their place in the Round of 16, Al Sadd needed a point to ensure they ended the group stage in top spot, while Persepolis had already been eliminated and sat bottom of the group with four points.
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In the final outing of his illustrious career, 39-year-old Xavi continued to be the prime creative force for Al Sadd. Five minutes in, the Spaniard collected the ball at the centre circle and supplied a through pass for Baghdad Bounedjah who looked to lob over Alireza Beiranvand, but the Persepolis goalkeeper stretched and made the save with his fingertips.
Persepolis’ first attempt of the match produced the opening goal in the 16th minute. Torabi collected Ahmad Noorollahi’s pass 30 yards from goal and unleashed a thunderous drive into the top corner of Saad Al Sheeb’s net to put the hosts in front.
Persepolis thought they had doubled their lead at the half-hour mark when a Torabi corner was cleared by Jung Woo-young, but only as far as Mohsen Rabikhah, who struck from the edge of the penalty box, beating the goalkeeper. However, Al Sadd midfielder Salem Al Hajri was well positioned to clear the ball off the goal-line.
After the restart, Al Sadd looked to take the game to their opponents in an effort to find the equaliser, and they came as close as possible in the 64th minute when the 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan beat Beiranvand from 35 yards out, but watched his powerful effort ricochet off the bottom of the upright.
Torabi then turned provider for Persepolis in the 67th minute, breaking free down the left flank and finding Alipour with a perfectly weighted pass. Alipour rode off the initial tackle of Tarek Salman before drilling a low effort through the legs of Al Sheeb to make it 2-0.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Xavi had a golden chance to mark the last game of his career with a trademark goal, but the Al Sadd captain’s effort from the free-kick just grazed the top of the net and went behind for a goal-kick.
For the first time since the opening matchday, Al Sadd were unable to find the back of the net in 90 minutes as Boualem Khoukhi tried to take advantage of a defensive mix-up, but saw his attempt from close range blocked by goalkeeper Beiranvand.
The result means Al Sadd have to wait for the outcome of the second Monday clash between Al Ahli and Pakhtakor to learn whether they will finish first or second in the group.
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