Bengaluru/Doha, October 3: Former champions Al Sadd suffered a shock 0-1 reversal at home to Persepolis in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semifinal at Doha's Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
The visitors were on the back foot for most of the game, happy to absorb the pressure from Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez-led Sadd.
However, they managed to score against the run of play after being awarded a late penalty (86th minute) that was duly dispatched by Ali Alipour.
The result gives the Iranian side a vital advantage going into the second leg at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on October 23, when they will be aiming to reach the AFC Champions League final for the first time in their history, while it leaves the Qatari side with an uphill task.
"It was a very difficult game. Al Sadd had more of the possession but they didn't have much luck in our box," said Persepolis coach Zlatko Ivankovic.
"Our team fought well and showed their strength. The result gives us a good chance to secure a spot in the final in Tehran," added Ivankovic, whose sentiments were echoed by midfielder Ahmad Nourollahi.
Persepolis went into the game having been beaten in three of their five away matches on the continent, including a 1-2 defeat to Sadd in the group stage.
Despite the home defeat, Sadd coach Jesualdo Ferreira said he was still confident that his team could overturn their 0-1 first-leg deficit and progress to the final of AFC Champions League for the first time in seven years.
"We still have a chance to win the return leg and we must have the full belief to achieve this goal," Ferreira said at the post-match press conference.
"Now we are thinking of only one outcome: winning the return match in Tehran because this is the only result that will help us reach the final," Ferreira said.
The Portuguese coach was critical of the Iranians' game saying it was more wrestling than football.
"The Iranian team is a very difficult team. They were playing wrestling and this is not football. We fought a lot over the course of the match. Now we have no choice but to win the return match to compete for the title. We realize it a difficult goal to achieve we are determined," said Ferreira.
"The return game will be very difficult especially since we are going to play against 100,000 spectators. They also have a great advantage because of the win in the first leg. They have physical strength and will certainly play openly but I'm confident that Sadd can return a positive result."
(With inputs from AFC Media)