The curtain came down on another Persian Gulf Pro League season on Friday night as Persepolis clinched a record-extending fifth consecutive title.
Needing a victory over Paykan to secure the title regardless of the result between second-placed Sepahan and Esteghlal, the Tehran-based Reds were quick to ease the stress of their supporters with nine minutes into the game when Mehdi Abdi tapped in a low cross by Mehdi Torabi, before Ahmad Nourollahi sealed the 2-0 victory mid-way through the first half.
The result saw Yahya Golmohammadi’s men finish atop the table with 67 points, two points clear of Sepahan, which still beat Esteghlal 2-1 at the Azadi Stadium.
For all the financial crisis, which has been a routine for both Persepolis and Esteghlal in recent years, the Reds enjoyed a consistent campaign, which saw them suffer a single defeat throughout the season – a 2-1 setback at Aluminium Arak in January.
Golmohammadi surely has his solid backline to thank for the triumph, as the champion conceded only 14 goals in 30 outings, registering 19 clean sheets.
The addition of Torabi and Shahryar Moghanlou in mid-season as well as Issa Al-e Kassir, whose six-month AFC ban finished in March, to the striking force, also played a key part in the success of the Reds, who were blamed for lack of finishing touch in the first half of the campaign.
The best spell of the season came after April’s AFC Champions League group stage for Persepolis, when Golmohammadi’s side won eight in the last 10 matches.
Nourollahi, perhaps the league’s player of the season, and Abdi also made a significant contribution, topping the scoring chart for Persepolis with 10 and nine goals respectively, with the latter scoring six in the final six outings.
Ex-champion goes down
In the other end of the table, a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Tractor saw Saipa join Mashinsazi in being relegated from the Iranian top-flight.
Saipa, which had won the league in the 2006-07 season under Iranian legendary footballer Ali Daei, became the third former champion to fall down to the second-tier league, following Pas Tehran and Esteghlal Khuzestan, the last team to lift the trophy before Persepolis’s five-year dominance.
The result also meant Tractor overtook Golgohar Sirjan, which was held to a 2-2 draw against Nassaji Mazandaran, for the fourth place, meaning if third-placed Esteghlal goes on to win the Hazfi Cup on August 8, the Tabriz-based club will be handed a place in next season’s AFC Champions League.