Despite the fact that Isfahan-based Sepahan has celebrated a second Iran Pro League (IPL) title four weeks before the league ends, the match was important for both sides.
Esteqlal thought of restoring some part of its damaged prestige by beating its old foe in the 24th week of league and the red-clad Perspolis - the first IPL champion - eyed the second place in the table.
In front of some 100,000 partisan fans in a newly-repaired packed Azadi Stadium, 100 km west of Tehran, Perspolis possessed both ball and field as the Slovak referee announced the kickoff.
Playing on the left flank, Perspolis midfielder Pejman Jamshidi unleashed an unstoppable angled shot just from behind the box in the 10th minute, kissing the back side of the diving Hadi Tabatabaei net.
The sky was reddened one minute later when the unmarked advancing defender Yahya Golmohammadi slotted home a Karim Baqeri corner from a close range.
Esteqlal striker Ahmad Mo'menzadeh had a bad day again. The struggling forward missed two man-to-man challenges against the red keeper Farshid Karimi in the 31st and 32nd minutes.
Perspolis came close to the second goal five minutes later but striker Reza Jabbari sent a loose ball in the six-yard box wide above the bar.
Esteqlal's situation was aggravated in the 45th minute when Farzad Majidi received his marching orders after targeting the legs of Perspolis veteran midfielder Hamid Estili.
One minute into the injury time, the blues' midfielder Sirous Dinmohammadi fired a goal-bound shot that was parried out by Karimi.
After the break, the 10-man Esteqlal planned to secure the
parity but this was reds' camp that celebrated its second goal in the 50th minute.
Striker Behnam Abulqasempour patted in a ball into an empty net as Baqeri's kick was deflected and wrongfooted the goalie Tabatabaei after hitting the blues' defense wall.
Esteqlal minimized the gap when the fast-packed striker Ali Reza Akbarpour escaped from an offside trap and dribbled past a diving Karimi, side-footing the ball into an empty net in the 63rd minute.
Seconds from the game -- five minutes into the injury time -- Esteqlal reduced to nine men. Striker Ali Samareh was red-carded for harsh foul on Estili.
Winning 41 points, Perspolis jumped to the second place and Esteqlal of Tehran dropped to the seventh spot.
The league champion Sepahan has now 52 points.
... Payvand News - 6/14/03 ... --