|Zobahan will travel to Saudi Arabia for the second leg of the semi-final on October 20 [AFP]|
Iranian football league leaders Zobahan’s bid to emulate city rivals Sepahan’s achievement three years ago in reaching the Asian Champions League final has moved a step closer, with a win over Saudi Arabian outfit Al Hilal 1-0 in the first leg of their semi-final match.
A 57th minute freekick on Wednesday by Ghasem Hadadifar was the difference between the two sides in a tight match where the Saudi giants – the most successful club in the domestic league with 12 league titles in 34 years – may come to regret missing a penalty in the first-half.
Zobahan, too, failed to take their chances with Brazilian striker Igor Castro and Iranian international Mohammad Reza Khalatbari most at fault for not building a bigger advantage to take to Saudi Arabia for the second leg.
Zobahan – without former international Mahdi Rajabzadeh, who was suspended after being sent off in the quarter-final second leg against holders Pohang Steelers – breathed a huge sigh of relief in the 41st minute.
Al Hilal striker Yasser Al Qahtani was fouled in the area as he was shaping up to shoot with Zobahan goalkeeper Shahab Gordan desperately rushing out at him.
But veteran Swedish midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson hit a poor penalty and it was saved by Iranian goalkeeper Gordan.
Indeed Wilhelmsson had a nightmare match as it was his leaving open a gap in the Saudi wall that allowed Hadadifar to give the hosts the lead and what could prove to be a vital goal and still leave the two-time Asian Club Champions without a victory in the Champions League.
Tuesday’s match had been a seven goal thriller.
Saudi side Al Shabab mounted a thrilling late comeback to secure a 4-3 victory over Korean outfit Seongnam Ilhwa.
The home side trailed 3-2 with 10 minutes to play, but Uruguayan striker Juan Manuel Olivera claimed his second goal of the game in the 83rd minute to level the score before substitute Fisal Bin Sultan snatched an 89th-minute winner.