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AFC Champions League 2020: Persepolis' route to final relived


Doha: There is still everything to play for in the 2020 AFC Champions League (East) but Islamic Republic of Iran's Persepolis FC are one match away from laying their hands on the coveted trophy.

The Iranian champions sealed their spot in the December 19 final after a magnificent performance in the 2020 AFC Champions League (West) which was played in the centralised location of Qatar.

Having garnered just one point from their opening two matches before the tournament was halted in March by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Iranian champions hardly put a foot wrong when the tournament resumed in September.

Join the-AFC.com as we relive Persepolis' journey to the AFC Champions League final, their second in three years.

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Group Stage

Having opened their Group C campaign on a low key note after a 2-0 defeat to Qatar's Al Duhail SC and a 2-2 draw with UAE's Sharjah in February, 2018 AFC Champions League runners-up Persepolis had little margin for error when the tournament resumed in Qatar.

Persepolis, however, hit the ground running as they defeated Saudi Arabia's Al Taawoun FC 1-0, a result which was repeated on Matchday Four as the Tehran-based side signalled their intent.

An Almoez Ali penalty secured Al Duhail a 1-0 win on Matchday Five but that was a mere blip as Persepolis defeated Sharjah 4-0 in their final match to seal the Group D top spot.


Round of 16

Round of 16: Persepolis FC 1-0 Al Sadd SC

In what was arguably the plum Round of 16 tie, Persepolis faced Xavi's Al Sadd in a meeting between two perennial rivals.

Persepolis had shown Al Sadd, the 2011 AFC Champions League winners, the exit in the 2018 semi-finals and there was to be heartbreak again - in dramatic fashion - for Xavi and his players as Isa Alkasir scored in the 88th minute to take the Iran Pro League champions into the quarter-finals.


Quarter-finals

Alkasir was the Persepolis hero once again as his second-half brace saw the Iranian side cruise past Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor.

Pakhtakor, in their first AFC Champions League quarter-final in 11 years, were on the backfoot from the 15th minute as Jaloliddin Masharipov saw a straight red card following a challenge on Kamal Kamyabinia in the 15th minute.

Quarter-final: Persepolis FC 2-0 Pakhtakor

The Uzbek side held on for the remainder of the first half but Persepolis piled on the pressure in the second period and were rewarded just four minutes in as Hossein Kanaani supplied a through pass for Siamak Nemati down the right, who then squared for Alkasir to convert first time past Eldorbek Suyunov.

They doubled their tally in the 66th minute as Alkasir got on the end of a cross, beating goalkeeper Suyunov at the near post as Persepolis advanced to the semi-finals for the third time in four years.


Semi-final

Up next for Persepolis were Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr, in the AFC Champions League semi-final for the first time.

Persepolis had to do without Alkasir, who had scored four goals in their run-up to the semi-final, with the forward suspended by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee from taking part in any kind of football-related activity for six months for violating Article 58.1 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code (2019 Edition).

Semi-final: Al Nassr 1-1 Persepolis (Persepolis win 5-3 on penalties)

Action swung from end to end as both sides looked for the early advantage.

Al Nassr, however, gradually began to see more of the ball and 10 minutes from the half-time whistle, the Saudi side were awarded a penalty after Bashar Resan brought Khalid Al Ghannam down inside the box.

Abderrazzak Hamdallah stepped up confidently and chipped the ball into the back of the net ‘Panenka’ style for his seventh goal of the 2020 AFC Champions League.

Persepolis were far from disheartened, needing only six minutes to restore parity after Vahid Amiri dispossessed left-back Awad Khamis deep in Al Nassr’s half and fed Resan, who whipped in a cross for Mehdi Abdi Qara (pictured above) to guide the ball with a header past goalkeeper Brad Jones.

Neither side found a way through in the remainder of the second half, meaning an additional 30 minutes were needed to determine the West region's representative for the 2020 AFC Champions League final.

The advantage seemed to have swung Al Nassr's way when Persepolis were reduced to 10 men in the final minute of an otherwise quiet first half of extra time as midfielder Ehsan Pahlavan received his second yellow card of the night following a challenge on Al Nassr substitute Abdulrahman Al Dossari.

Playing with a numerical disadvantage for the remaining quarter of an hour, Persepolis defended resiliently in the face of an avalanche of Al Nassr to take the game to a penalty shootout.

Centre-backs Hossein Kanaani (Persepolis) and Abdullah Madu (Al Nassr) converted from the spot, then Siamak Nemati and Pity Martinez followed suit. Milad Sarlak made it 3-2 for Persepolis and substitute Abdulrahman Al Obaid ensured the score was level after three shots each.

It was the turn of the other two centre-backs; Shojae Khalilzadeh scored for Persepolis but goalkeeper Hamed Lak saved from Maicon to hand his side the advantage.

Substitute Ali Shojae sealed his side’s victory with the last spot-kick to take Persepolis' into the 2020 AFC Champions League final and they now await their opponents from the East.

Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC+8) on November 18.

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