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Esteqlal cruises to AFC Champions League group stage

Source: PSRESS_URL; photos by Mehdi Zareh, Mehr News Agency

Esteqla has defeated Al-Ettifaq Club from Saudi Arabia 3-1 in the play-off round of the AFC Champions League to win one more slot for Iran in the finals of the competition.

Esteqlal team

Two-time Asian champions scored the first goal shortly before the break through Serbian striker Goran Yerkovic, after taking a short pass from Ali Hamoudi in front of about 60,000 spectators at Tehran's Azadi Stadium on Saturday.

Esteqlal's Khosrow Heidari (C) celebrates after his goal against Al-Ettifaq Club on February 18, 2012.

The guests managed to equalize after the break as Yousef Al-Salem sent the ball over Esteqlal's goalkeeper Mehdi Rahmati in the 60th minute.

However, Saudis' joy did not last more than two minutes as Khosrow Heidari regained the lead for the home side.

A superb sprint by Arash Borhani and a neat pass on the floor was perfectly put in by Heidari in the 62nd minute.

The Blues cheered up the fans in the 65th minute as Borhani put the ball in the back of the net to confirm a 3-1 win for Esteqlal.

"It was a very stressful match and this was a massive win for us... We needed the victory to reach the AFC Champions League," Esteqlal head coach Parviz Mazloumi said after the match.

Esteqlal gained Iran's third spot in this year's edition of the tournament together with Persepolis and Sepahan.

Esteqlal joined Qatar's Al-Rayyan, Uzbekistan's Nasaf Qarshi, and the UAE's Al-Jazira in Group A of the AFC Champions League group stage.

... Payvand News - 02/19/12 ... --

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