Yassin Salmani and Ramin Rezaeian were on target in the second half as Sepahan walked away with a 2-0 victory over Esteghlal at Tehran’s empty Azadi Stadium on the opening day of the Persian Gulf Pro League season, ending the champion’s run of 30 unbeaten games.
The last time Tehran-based Blues had suffered a defeat in the Iranian top flight goes back to 380 days ago, when Esteghlal was beaten 2-1 by the same opponent at home on the final day of two seasons ago.
The setback on his debut with Esteghlal would give Portuguese manager Ricardo Sa Pinto an early reality check, while his opposite number on Sepahan bench Jose Morais – also a new Portuguese in the Iranian football – will be looking to build on Friday’s statement victory as he seeks a first title in eight years for the Isfahan-based club.
Elsewhere on Friday, Danial Jahanbakhsh scored late in the first half to lead Paykan to a 1-0 home win against newly-promoted Malavan in Tehran.
Havadar also beat Aluminium Arak 1-0, courtesy of a Mohammad-Javad Mohammadi’s strike midway through the first half, as Saket Elhami celebrated a victory on his first game in charge of Havadar.
A managerial debut for Hamid Motahari – former No. 2 to Persepolis boss Yahya Golmohammadi – finished in a draw against Mes Rafsanjan.
Hamed Shiri gave Nassaji Mazandaran the lead from the spot in the 49th minute, only to see goal canceled out by new Mes striker Luciano Pereira nine minutes later as the game finished 1-1.
A five-goal thriller in Masjed Soleyman saw Mes Kerman – playing in a first Pro League game in eight years – come from behind twice against Naft but eventually surrender to Amir-Hossein Karimi’s winner on the hour mark.
Payman Ranjbari and Reza Dehqani were on the score sheet for the home side, and Amin Kazemian and Hossein Doustdar netted the equalizers for the visiting side, with all four goals coming in the space of 16 minutes in the first half.