Persepolis lifted the fourth successive Persian Gulf Pro League trophy at an empty Azadi Stadium on Thursday.
Reds’ title celebration, however, was ruined after Vahid Mohammadzadeh’s towering header in the first half gave struggling Zob Ahan a much-needed 1-0 victory over the champion – Reds’ fifth defeat of the season.
Persepolis – undefeated in 16 league matches – was last beaten 1-0 at home by Naft Masjed Soleyman last November.
Persepolis manager Yahya Golmohammadi, whose side had sealed the title with a 2-1 win over Naft in the reverse fixture on July 24, rued Friday’s defeat, acknowledging his team lacked determination for the occasion.
“We wanted to celebrate the title with a victory but it’s not easy to keep the players motivated for these kinds of matches,” said the 49-year-old Iranian who parted ways with Shahr Khodro to replace Gabriel Calderon in midseason after the Argentine left his job in December over a financial dispute with the club.
Golmohammadi was full of praise for his predecessor and Croatian Branko Ivankovic who led Persepolis to its previous three titles.
“Both men did a lot of hard work for this team and I have nothing but respect for them. I wish Branko could have been here with us,” added Golmohammadi.
Reds – who will face Golgohar Sirjan and Saipa in their remaining league games – will be eyeing a domestic double as they will play either Tractor, Naft Masjed Soleyman, or the winner of the quarterfinal match between Esteghlal and Sepahan in the Hazfi Cup (Iranian domestic cup competition) semifinals.
Golmohammadi side will also hope to bounce back from a disappointing start to its campaign at the AFC Champions League when it resumes action in Group C on September 15.
Persepolis currently sits third in the group with one point in two games, trailing Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun and Qatar’s Al Duhail by five and two points respectively.