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Persepolis edge Al Sadd to reach AFC Champions League final

Iran’s Persepolis advanced to the final of the AFC Champions League for the first time with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Qatar’s Al Sadd following a 1-1 draw in their semi-final second leg in the Iranian capital on Tuesday.

Iran’s forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh prays before the start of the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Morocco and Iran at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on June 15, 2018. / AFP PHOTO /

Persepolis edged the first leg in Doha 1-0 earlier this month, but a Baghdad Bounedjah strike in the 17th minute Tuesday gave Al Sadd the lead and raised hopes of an upset victory in front of a capacity crowd at the Azadi Stadium.

However, Siamak Nemati equalised for Persepolis in the 49th minute off a pass from Godwin Mensha and the Qatar giants were unable to find the net a second time which would have sent them through on away goals.

Al Sadd had threatened as early as the third minute, but Abdelkarim Hassan’s shot was pouched by Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Persepolis tightened up after that and began to test the Al Sadd defence. In the 14th minute, Ali Mosleh was unable to connect after Mensha had headed the ball across the goalmouth following a corner.

Three minutes later, Bounedjah’s goal came after a rare lapse by the Persepolis defence as the star striker latched on to a Hasan al-Haydos pass with two players marking him failing to anticipate the situation.

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Bounedjah, the top scorer in the tournament with 13 goals, finished off with a fine first-time shot past the outstretched arms of Beiranvand.

Beiranvand though pulled off a vital reflex save to keep out a Xavi header in the 86th minute as Persepolis sealed their spot in the final where they take on either Japan’s Kashima Antlers or South Korea’s Suwon Bluewings.

Kashima won the first leg 3-2, with the second match to be played Wednesday at the Suwon World Cup Stadium.

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