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Esteghlal had to work hard for AFC Champions League victory against Al Shorta, says Majidi 


Jeddah: Head coach Farhad Majidi said Esteghlal FC  fought hard to earn a vital 1-0 win against Iraq’s Al Shorta in their final 2021 AFC Champions League Group C tie on Friday.

Esteghlal owed victory to Malian forward Cheick Diabaté, who scored the only goal of the match from the penalty spot for their third win and, more importantly, finish as the Group C winners to seal a place in the Round of 16.

Up next for the Islamic Republic of Iran side are 2019 AFC Champions League winners Al Hilal SFC, with the Round of 16 tie against the Saudi Arabia side scheduled for September.

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Majidi said Esteghlal expected a difficult match despite playing the last-placed team in the group, adding that the weather also affected the performance of his players.

“We expected this scenario before the match. The weather affected the players and there was also fatigue. The result was not so comfortable for us during the match and it put more pressure on us," said Majidi.

2021 AFC Champions League: Esteghlal FC 1-0 Al Shorta

“We tried our best to conserve energy throughout the match so that the players wouldn’t get tired.

“This group is the toughest in the competition and Al Shorta would have advanced to the next stage if they were in another group. I’m probably the only Iranian player to have won the AFC Champions League, so I look forward to winning it again as a coach."

Al Shorta head coach Aleksandar Ilic said his side performed well but failed to get the result they were looking for.

“It is very hard to speak about the match as we gave our best but we didn’t get a positive result. We were playing our best football and we tried to change the result but we were not lucky," said Ilic.

“We have several players who played in all our matches and this affected their performance. We also have players who are playing (in the AFC Champions League) for the first time and we can build on their experience for the future.

“I hope we can play once again in the AFC Champions League because it was a unique experience."

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