TEHRAN, Nov. 3 (Mehr News Agency) - Persepolis striker Mehrdad Owladi came off the bench to celebrate the winner in the 2-1 victory over old foe Esteqlal in their 61st derby in the 100,000-seater Azadi Stadium in western Tehran Friday.
Esteqlal fullback Amir-Hossein Sadeqi silenced some 50,000 faithful in the 16th minute of the eight-week game of the sixth Iran Pro League (IPL), outjumping two markers near the far post to head home a Mohammad Navazi corner palmed by keeper Farshid Karimi.
The Reds, however, were on level terms six minutes later when frolic striker Mehrzad Ma'danchi gatecrashed the Blues' party, curling the ball he received from Alireza Nikbakht-Vahedi near the corner past giddy goalie Mehdi Rahmati.
Persepolis would take the lead on 36 minutes if forward Hossein Badamaki's stretching leg touched Ma'danchi cross into the box.
Karimi denied Esteqlal the lead as he saved a header from defender Piruz Qorbani eight minutes from the break.
Under Turkish trainer Mostafa Denizli, Persepolis outclassed the league holder Esteqlal in the second half and would thrash the Blues if its strikers did not squander the scoring chances.
Ma'danchi should have found the net three minutes after the interval, but his belatedly struck kick was blocked by Sadeqi.
Badamaki, who also had an under-par performance, picked up a Nikbakht through ball on 59 minutes and hit the ball against the side net with a left drive.
Esteqlal players and fans breathed a sigh of relief one minute later when the unmarked Ma'danchi sent a superb pass from Badamaki out from close range.
Persepolis, however, grabbed the winner in the 71st minute as Owladi gave a positive response to the confidence of Denizli, who had fielded him four minutes earlier.
The fast-paced striker raced to a well flighted cross from left winger Robert Saha, beating the advancing Rahmati with a perfect chip.
Esteqlal almost scored the equalizer four minutes from time. Sadeqi failed to double his own and Blues' scoring, hitting the ball against the diving Karimi's chest.
Denizli, in his post-match talks with reporters, said his team was the better side, particularly after the restart.
"We played a crowd-pleasing football and got the three points," boasted the manager.
Esteqlal manager Samad Marfavi, due to his great grief, declined to attend the press conference, reported the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN).
Persepolis moved from the sixth spot to the third with 15 points, leapfrogging Esteqlal on goal difference.
In other matches, pacesetter SAIPA overcame Barq 2-1, Rah Ahan was beaten by Mes 2-1, Esteqlal of Ahvaz and Zob Ahan tied 1-1, Sepahan snatched a 2-1 win over Paykan, Malavan saw off Fajr-e Sepassi 1-0, Abu Moslem defeated Pas 3-2, and Saba Battery and Fulad struggled to a goalless draw.
(Photos by Mehdi Zare')
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