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Epic by Iranians: Persepolis football team advance to 2020 ACL final


Reporting by Masoud Hossein, Tehran Times

Persepolis booked a place at the 2020 AFC Champions League final for the second time in three years after beating Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia in a penalty shootout.  Persepolis football club advanced to the final with a 5-3 win on penalties against Al Nassr after the West Zone semi-final ended 1-1 after 120 minutes at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Saturday.

Persepolis started the match with a big shock since the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee's decision banned the team's forward Issa Alekasir just hours before the match.

The 30-year-old forward received the ban after making a slant-eyed gesture to television cameras after scoring against Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, while he has always made this celebration due to his nephew.

In the 34th minute, Khalid Al-Ghannam was tripped down in the Persepolis area by Bashar Resan and Moroccan striker Abderazak Hamdallah converted the penalty with a right-footed shot to the center of the goal.

With three minutes to the break, Mehdi Abdi headed the ball home from the center of the box to the bottom left corner in the 42nd minute.

Persepolis were reduced to 10-man in the 104th minute after Ehsan Pahlevan was shown his second yellow card.

Al Nassr put Persepolis under pressure in the second added time but failed to find the back of the net.

In an epic penalty shootout, Persepolis defeated Al Nassr 5-3 and went into the final match.

The remaining matches in the eastern half of the draw are scheduled to be played in a centralized venue from Nov. 18 to Dec. 13.

Persepolis display in 2020 ACL beyond expectations

It is so hard to describe in words about Persepolis's performance at the 2020 AFC Champions League after they reached final with victory over Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia.

The Reds entered the competition in Doha with the aim of qualifying from Group C because they were third behind Saudi Arabia's Al Taawoun and Al Sadd of Qatar but they got better after each match.

The Iranian champions have been strengthened with new signings and so many thought it takes time for them to adopt the team's mentality but they absolutely incredibly improved in the new system.

Persepolis edged past Al Taawoun twice in the preliminary round and lost to Qatar's Duhail 1-0 however they qualified as the group winners courtesy of a 4-0 win over Emirati side Sharjah.

Persepolis made progress at a more accelerated pace than anyone expected.

They earned two big wins over Al Sadd and Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor ahead of the match against Al Nassr in semifinal.

It was a combination of techniques and tactics which made them difference in the prestigious tournament.

For instance, Al Sadd are benefiting from so many talented players and the Xavi's side play more technically and less physically. On the contrary, Pakhtakor play more physically and less technically.

But, Yahya Golmohammadi's side are very strong, both technically and physically. Fighting spirit push them forward as well as they were reduced to 10 men in the match against Al Nassr but never stepped back and beat their strong opponents on penalty shootout.

They have won Iran league for the fourth time in a row and have reached ACL final two times in three years and it shows that the team's development has started since years ago.

Persepolis can be a role model for the other Iranian teams since they have all fought together in the previous years to earn what they are looking for.

Now, they want to write their name into the history books by winning their first ever title in the AFC Champions League.

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