Persepolis manager Yahya Golmohammadi praised his players for showing character in the 3-1 comeback victory over Al Rayyan in Group E of the AFC Champions League.
The Iranian Reds went into the break at Goa’s Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, trailing by one goal – courtesy of a Naif al-Hadhrami’s header – before three goals inside 10 minutes saw them go four points clear of FC Goa on top of the group.
Veteran midfielder Kamal Kamyabinia, on his return to the starting eleven, headed home the equalizer with just two minutes into the second half, with new signing Shahriar Moghanlou getting off the mark in the Reds shirt with a brace.
“We entered the second half with the drive and motivation that we could win the match,” said Golmohammadi in the post-match press conference.
“We never lost that self-confidence and therefore we won,” the Iranian added.
“The whole team is built this way. We achieved this victory with teamwork and never once surrendered or admitted defeat.
“In fact, we wanted to score a fourth goal but that didn’t happen. I’m proud of my players for what they accomplished today. We owe it all to our fans because without them we will not have that desire to succeed.”
Up next for the Persian Gulf Pro League champion is a double-header against the host.
Al Rayyan head coach Laurent Blanc, meanwhile, tried to look at the positives after a result which leaves his team with one point after two matches.
“We were good in the first half but after that we lost the game in six minutes,” lamented Blanc. “Although we scored first, the manner in which we conceded was a big blow to my players.
“The first 45 minutes were very positive for Al Rayyan but Persepolis played very well, were physically better and applied pressure in the second half and they went on to score not one but three goals.”
‘Recovery will be essential’
In Group D, Brazilian striker Chimba scored from the spot right before the interval to help Foolad Khuzestan continue the impressive start to its campaign with a 1-0 victory over Jordan’s Al Wehdat in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“It was a tough and difficult match,” said Man of the Match Chimba. “Al Wehdat has many good players. We trained hard and analyzed them in detail, and we’re happy to obtain the three points. These three points will give us a better chance to win the group.”
The victory put the southern Iranian side in the second spot, equal on four points with Saudi side Al Nassr, which beat Qatar’s Al Sadd 3-1 earlier in the day.
“It is quite tiring after these three matches,” Chimba, whose team had to overcome the UAE’s Al Ain to book a place in the group phase, admitted.
“What’s most important right now is our recovery, and to be able to play well in the next match. We have a good fitness coach, who can treat us and get us back in shape.
“We are now reaching a crucial stage, as a lot of the players have played a lot, and it’s important that we rotate so that the others can get more rest.”
The-afc.com contributed to the report.