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Nekounam: Focus, determination took Foolad into AFC Champions League group stage

Riyadh: Head coach Javad Nekounam praised Foolad Khouzestan FC’s focus and determination as the Islamic Republic of Iran side sealed a place in the 2021 AFC Champions League group stage on Saturday. 

Two goals from captain Chimba and one each from Saleh Hardani and Ayanda Patosi saw Foolad score an emphatic 4-0 win over UAE's Al Ain FC at the Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, putting the Iranians in the group stage for the fourth time in their history.

The resounding victory confirmed Foolad as the 20th team in the West Zone group stage, with Nekounam’s side joining Qatar’s Al Sadd SC, Al Wehdat of Jordan and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League.

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“Al Ain worked hard, like us, but today was our day,” said Nekounam in the post-match press conference. “From the last game that we played in the local league until today, we only thought about Al Ain and got ready for this match.

“Al Ain are a great team and they have won the competition before. However, we came here with confidence and didn’t give them any possibility to create chances."

“We had some good chances in the first half and we managed to score at a good time before the break,” said the 40-year-old coach. “In the second half, we scored the second goal quickly and from then on, we dominated the entire match.

“We know we have tough games head in the group stage, but we will try our best,” Nekounam said as he cast his eyes on Wednesday’s opening match against Al Sadd at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

Al Ain head coach Pedro Emanuel said Foolad had more desire to win the match.

“I take part of the responsibility for this defeat and our early exit,” said Emanuel. “I have nothing much to say after this heavy defeat as our opponents were better than us and were more eager to win.

“Foolad were also strong and better than us. They took good advantage of the chances they created while we, on the other hand, conceded easy goals. We didn’t have a good reaction after the first goal and, in fact, the players lost concentration and we conceded three more goals.”

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