0817 GMT September 18, 2021
Esteghlal manager Farhad Majidi rued his team’s missed chances during a 2-0 defeat against Al Hilal at the AFC Champions League (ACL) round of 16 on Monday.
French striker Bafétimbi Gomis gave the Saudi giant the lead in the 39th minute in Dubai’s Zabeel Stadium before Salem al-Dawsari added a second with 11 minutes into the second half to end the Tehran-based Blues’ bid for a third Asian trophy, and a first since 1991.
However, Esteghlal players might blame themselves for another ACL setback as they were not clinical in front of Al Hilal goal.
Blues’ center-back Siavash Yazdani headed Amirhossein Hosseinzadeh’s free-kick just wide in the 16th minute, while a rasping volley from Amir-Arsalan Motahari forced Abdullah al-Mayouf into a fine save shortly after.
The Saudi keeper again had to produce a heroic save to deny Arman Ramezani’s header after substitute Babak Moradi’s effort from the edge of the box went above the crossbar.
“Our players gave their best and despite creating chances, we failed to convert them,” Majidi said in the post-match press conference.
“Al Hilal are a strong team and they have influential foreign players.
“I want to thank the players for what they did today. It was a difficult match as our preparations were not perfect while our opponents changed their style of play specifically for this match,” added the former Esteghlal skipper.
Meanwhile, Al Hilal head coach Leonardo Jardim said his team had to work hard for the victory.
“We won an important match against a team who had won their group,” said the Portuguese.
“Despite the win, the match was not easy and we faced strong opponents.
“I told the players that our opponents would push hard in the early periods of the match. We, however, controlled the match afterwards and played with a balanced performance.
“The players showed great determination to win tonight. Our aim is to win all our matches in the knockout stage and we must show great concentration.”
Al Hilal will now set its sights on Friday's knockout stage draw with the Saudi Pro League side on course to adding to the 2019 crown.