Voria Ghafouri and Mehdi Qayedi scored inside first 14 minutes as Esteghlal claimed an all-important 2-1 victory at Golgohar Sirjan on Wednesday to overtake Amir Qalenoei’s side for the top spot of the Persian Gulf Pro League.
The Tehran-based Blues’ skipper was on target from the spot in the eighth minute after a blunder by keeper Alireza Haqiqi who fouled Amir-Arsalan Motahari when he failed to dribble past the Esteghlal striker.
Qayedi doubled the lead for Esteghlal with his first goal of the season, firing home a Ghafouri’s low drive inside the box.
Mahmoud Fekri’s side could have been home and dry on the half-hour mark as Ghafouri was brought down by the Haqiqi but saw his second spot-kick go above the cross bar.
A third penalty of the game gave Golgohar a lifeline in the 78th minute as Ahmad-Reza Zendeh-Rouh sent Rashid Mazaheri the wrong way to make it a nervy closing stage for the Blues.
Mazaheri, however, made a heroic save to keep out Godwin Mensha’s point-blank effort right before the final whistle as Fekri came out victorious against his old mentor.
The victory took Esteghlal to the top of the table with 15 points, equal on points with San’at Naft Abadan, while Golgohar dropped to third.
Also on Wednesday, veteran striker Farzad Hatami scored six minutes after being introduced as a substitute in the 76th minute to lead Paykan to a 1-0 victory at Naft Masjed Soleyman.
Elsewhere, Tractor and Shahr Khodro settled for a goalless draw in Tabriz, with Foolad Khuzestan beating Nassaji Mazandaran 1-0 at home courtesy of an Ayanda Patosi’s first-half goal.
On Tuesday, Sepahan missed out on going top after giving away a first-half two-goal lead to settle for a 3-3 draw at Mashinsazi.
In a game that saw the referee blow in his whistle for five penalties, Sajjad Shahbaz-Zadeh gave Moharam Navidkia’s men the lead from the spot midway through the first half before providing Georgian Giorgi Gvelesiani with the second goal in the 35th minute.
Payman Babaei converted a penalty for the home side three minutes later but Shahbaz-Zadeh restored the two-goal cushion with a spot-kick right before the interval – his eighth goal of the season.
Babaei again cut the deficit to one on the hour mark before completing his hat-trick from the spot in the 76th minute.
In Tehran, Mohammad Ahl-e Shakheh scored a 90th minute equalizer, canceling out Reza Ja’fari’s opener for Saipa, as San’at Naft Abadan left the pitch with one point.