Persepolis 1-1 Al Sadd: AFC Champions League 2018 match report
Persepolis fell behind on the night but never trailed in the tie as they found a late equaliser to put them ahead on aggregate and into the Champions League final.
Persepolid 1-1 Al Sadd (2-1 aggregate): match report
Al Sadd were knocked out of the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night after Persepolis, who led 1-0 from the first leg, rescued a draw in the second half, which was enough to see them through on aggregate.
The game was played at the jam-packed Azadi Stadium in Tehran. And it was Al Sadd, with LaLiga legends, Xavi and Gabi, in their ranks, who started the game on the front foot.
They might have even been over-ambitious in their approach as Persepolis sat and let them attack before pouncing on the break. Al Sadd didn't want to spend the game behind their opponents and it wouldn't be long before they had their reward.
A lovely ball into the box from the right off Al Haidos landed at the right-foot of Bounedjah and he curled one low beyond the outstretched arms of Beiranvand. The tie was level and Persepolis no longer had an advantage.
They were the better side in attack even if Al Sadd did dominate possession. Mensha up front for the eventual winners was a constant threat and he was hurrying defenders and prowling behind them every time the ball entered the final third.
It was his cross into the box on 49 minutes that turned the tie back in their favour. It fell to Nemati as he volleyed past the keeper.
Al Sadd had chances near the end even if their possession statistics would suggest they should have had more. Xavi went closest with a header on 87 minutes that was saved by Persepolis' shotstopper and Bounedjah saw an awkward backheel put behind as they tried and failed to get another goal.
It's Persepolis who go through to the final of the Champions League with Suwon Bluewings vs Kashima Antlers playing their second leg of the other semi on Wednesday to see who will meet Branko Ivankovic's side in the decider.
Persepolis vs Al Sadd online: live commentary
Persepolis vs Al Sadd online: preview
Tehran's Azadi Stadium will host the second leg of the AFC Champions League semi-final between Iran's Persepolis and Al Sadd from Qatar. The Iranian side take a single goal lead from the first encounter in Doha earlier in the month but know it will be a tough ask to keep their opponents from scoring once again.
Croatian manager Branko Ivankovic put the club's adoring fans front and centre when he spoke in the pre-match press conference
"We want to make our fans happy because we play for them," he proclaimed, as well as predicting a "beautiful performance" from his side. He will be acutely aware, however, that in the first leg his players saw just a third of the ball, instead spending much of the game trying to affect and stifle what their Qatari rivals could do. Alireza Beiranvand could be in for a busy night as he protects the home goal, but qualification for their first final will ensure wild celebrations in Tehran.
Spanish stars Xavi and Gabi are the headline acts for the Qatari giants who can also boast eight of the national team players in their ranks. Another player to watch is Baghdad Bounedjah, the Algerian international who did the damage when these two sides met in the group stages. His brace helped his team to a 3-1 win in February and a similar scoreline will see them reach another final, the heights they've not seen since winning the competition in 2011.
Portuguese manager Jesualdo Ferreira was bullish ahead of this return fixture saying that his side "were the better team in the first leg" but knows that the performance needs to be matched with sufficient goals.