Zob Ahan and Chunma make semis
Mohammad Reza Khalatbari's dramatic late intervention saw Zob Ahan into the semi-finals of the Asian Champions League following a 1-1 draw with Pohang Steelers.
The Iranians held a 2-1 advantage from last week's quarter-final first leg in Esfahan but the one-goal lead was erased after nine minutes at the Steelyard as Pohang went ahead through Kim Jae-sung. Mota's beautifully threaded ball set Jung Hong-young free down the left and his cutback was sidefooted into the back of the net by Kim from 10 yards to put the hosts in position to qualify thanks to the away goals rule.
Pohang dominated the game and Seol Ki-hyeon was guilty of an incredible miss with 20 minutes to go as he sprung the Zob Ahan offside trap to latch on to a long ball down the left, and beat onrushing goalkeeper Shahabaldin Gordan but then fired over an empty goal from seven yards.
The hosts were made to pay in the 80th minute when Khalatbari buried his first chance of the match. The Iran striker turned a defender to collect Ghasem Hadadifar's pass, knocked the ball out of his feet with his first touch and with his second smashed a low right-footed drive across goalkeeper Shin Hwa-yong and in via the far post.
Mahdi Rajabzadeh was then sent off three minutes from the end, collecting a second booking for time-wasting while off the pitch on a stretcher, but Zob Ahan held on to go through 3-2 on aggregate. "We concentrated on attacking in the second half. My players did their best," said boss Mansour Ebrahimzadeh.
At Suwon World Cup Stadium, Suwon Bluewings almost pulled off an amazing fightback but fell just short against Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. Needing to win 3-0 after a 4-1 defeat at Tancheon Sports Complex, the hosts went ahead after 32 minutes as Yeom Ki-hyun lashed in a 25-yard free-kick.
Lee Sang-ho scored a second for Suwon on the hour mark when the striker stroked home Marcio's pass, but they were unable to add to their tally and Seongnam progressed 4-3 on aggregate.
"I feel a little uncomfortable that we progressed to the semi-final by losing," said Seongnam boss Shin Tae-young. "In the game, Suwon played well in all aspects. We needed the big win from the first leg to get through."