Doha – Hamed Lak produced a diving save off Maicon Rocque as Persepolis beat Al Nassr 5-3 on penalties to reach the final of the Asian Champions League for the second time in three years on Saturday.
Both teams had played out a tense 1-1 draw after 120 minutes of action forcing the match into the tie-breaker at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium.
But it was the Iranians who emerged as the top team in Asia’s west zone as they scored off all their five penalties, while Saudi giant Al Nassr watched in agony from the sidelines as their Brazilian defender Rocque’s shot, his team’s fourth, was saved by Lak, leaping to his right.
A few hours before the match Persepolis was dealt a blow when the Asian Football Confederation banned their star striker Issa Alekasir for six months for a “discriminatory gesture” while celebrating his goal against Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
In addition to the ban, the 30-year-old, who scored four times in his side’s last three matches in Doha and was chiefly instrumental to their progress to the semis, was also fined $10,000 for his slant-eyed gesture, considered a serious racial offense.
“The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Disciplinary and Ethics Committee has banned Issa Alekasir, of Persepolis FC, from taking part in any kind of football-related activity for six months for violating Article 58.1 of the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Code (2019 Edition),” the AFC said in a statement.
“The ban will take effect immediately,” the continental body added
Article 58.1 states “anyone who offends the dignity of a person or group of persons through contemptuous, discriminatory or denigratory words or actions concerning race, skin colour, gender, disability, language, age, physical appearance, religion, political opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation, or ethnic, national, or social origin has committed an offence.”
On Saturday, however, Al Nassr, hoping to reach the final for the first time, couldn’t make the most of Alekasir’s absence or the fact that Persepolis had lost Ehsan Pehlevan just before halftime after he received his second yellow card.
The Saudis were first to score though, Abderrazzak Hamdallah foxing goalkeeper Lak with a panenka in the 36th minute following Bashar Resan’s foul on Khalid al-Ghannam.
But Persepolis needed only six minutes to draw level, with Abdi Mehdi producing an excellent header past Al Nassr goalkeeper Brad Jones off a cross from Resan.
Luck came to Lak’s rescue immediately after the break as Hamdallah produced a brilliant free-kick only for the ball to thud into the crossbar after the goalkeeper was thoroughly beaten.
Both teams had their share of chances before Lak came up with his decisive save in the shootout to put his team against a team from Asia’s east, which is yet to be determined.
The event, which was halted in February following the coronavirus outbreak, resumed in a biosecure bubble in Doha last month with the matches packed into a tight schedule and the knockout phase doing away with the double-legged format.
The tournament’s matches in the east are yet to be announced.
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