Al Jazira beat Iranian side Persepolis in 5-goal thriller
Al Jazira's Mohamad Al Attas (right) vies for the ball against Persepolis' Vahid Amiri during their AFC Champions League match held at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Stakes were high for the home side with a trophy-less year so far
abu dhabi - An unassuming Khalifa Mubarak grabbed a last-gasp victory as 'Pride of Abu Dhabi' Al Jazira beat Iranian side Persepolis 3-2 in the first leg of the AFC Champions League Round 16 match at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium on Monday.
Stakes were high for the home side with a trophy-less year so far. There was also a nervous anticipation as this was the first meeting between the two sides on the Continental stage. And it was a chaotic start as both teams were assaultive.
Getting things going, Persepolis' midfielder Siamak Nemati had a shy at Al Jazira goal in four minutes.
Persepolis maintained a tight offside line. Al Jazira, though, came up with a counter and Ali Mabkhout tried a long-ranger but his effort was saved. Mabkhout and Romarinho worked out nice one-two pass.
However, the tackles and challenges soared. Referee calmed things by booking Persepolis' Kamal Kamyabinia for intercepting Romarinho. Later Persepolis keeper Alireza Beiranvand went down after catching a goal-bound Mabkhout. Al Jazira's Salim Rashid was next to get a yellow card. At the other end, Mbark Boussoufa earned a free-kick after being felled by Persepolis defender Shojae Khalilzadeh.
It was a messy affair and amid the commotion, Persepolis had another attempt on goal through striker Ali Alipour. Al Jazira's Mohamed Fawzi showed some great skills in Persepolis box but there was goal to boot.
However, just before the half-time the visitors managed to open account. Vahid Amiri, skating from left flank, delivered a neat cross into the box for Alipour to powerfully head into the right corner. And the Persepolis striker marked the away goal with Cristiano Ronaldo-esque celebration. And in 45 minutes, Alipour could have doubled but his attempt went wide.
Looking for an equaliser, Al Jazira replaced Yaqoub Al Hosani with Ahmed Al Hashmi. And the substitute immediately impacted a goal. Al Hashmi delivered a pin-point pass into the box and Mabkhout foxed the keeper to blast a low shot into the bottom left corner.
Despite the sloppy fouls, the game was beautifully poised.
In 77 minutes, Al Jazira took lead with a top-notch effort from Romarinho. It was a purposeful pass from Mabkhout and the Brazilian scored from the centre of the box into the right corner.
Tragedy struck as Al Jazira's young Mohamed Al Attas conceded a penalty for handling. And the visitors drew level as Godwin Mensha converted the spot kick.
It was an intense end to match as both teams went all out to bag a winner. And in sixth minute of additional time, the home team scored from a set-piece situation. Al Jazira won a free-kick following a foul and Mbark Boussoufa was the delivery man as Khalifa Mubarak nailed a header to secure a last-minute victory.
Persepolis had maintained four clean sheets leading to the match and conceded thrice in this match. Al Jazira have finally shown their mettle and will now head to Iran next week for the return leg with a goal advantage and a winning momentum.
Al Jazira: Ali Mabkhout (52), Romarinho (77), Khalifa Mubarak (90+6)
Persepolis: Ali Alipour (42), Godwin Mensha (84)