Persepolis and Sepahan won on Saturday as the top two in the Persian Gulf Pro League table are reluctant to give up on the title with three games to spare.
Looking for a fifth consecutive title, leaders Persepolis beat Aluminium Arak 2-0 at home, courtesy of first-half goals by Shahriyar Moghanlou and Mehdi Torabi.
“It was a massive victory for us. We’ll look at all three reaming matches as a final and will be after complete points,” Reds manager Yahya Golmohammdi said.
In Isfahan, Sepahan, trailing the top by two points, outpowered San’at Naft Abadan 4-1.
League topscorer Sajjad Shahbaz-Zadeh and Mohammadreza Hosseini gave Moharam Navidkia’s men a two-goal lead in the first half, before Reza Khaleqifar pulled one back for the visitors. However, Shahbaz-Zadeh scored his 19th goal of the season, and Ezzatollah Pourqaz also got on the score-sheet to keep the pressure on the Tehran-based Reds.
“We had tough moments in the game. We sat back in the second half and gave away the midfield area for some 20 minutes. But we managed to bounce back with a couple of substitutions after their goal,” said Navidkia, who, in his debut season on the bench, will be looking to win a first title for Sepahan in six years.
Next for Persepolis in the league is a visit to Mashinsazi on July 20, who are all but relegated following the 1-0 defeat against Foolad Khuzestan, with Sepahan playing away to Padideh on the same day.
It will be a tough encounter for Sepahan against Seyyed Mehdi Rahmati’s side, who were 3-1 winners in the reverse fixture.
The final two matchdays of the season will see holders host Tractor, before an away game against Paykan, while Sepahan will face strugglers Zob Ahan in the Isfahan derby, and then travel to Tehran square off against third-placed Esteghlal.