Drama aplenty as Persepolis and Antlers reach first final
Persepolis and Kashima Antlers reach the AFC Champions League final
The duo of final debutants will now compete for a place at UAE 2018
Antlers through following two high-scoring thrillers
History was made in the last four of the AFC Champions League as Persepolis and Kashima Antlers edged through to reach the final for the first time and set up an enticing decider.
Both sides followed up their first-leg victories with draws to progress. Having won away with a solitary-goal triumph, Persepolis came from behind to draw 1-1 with Al Sadd at home and advance 2-1 on aggregate. Antlers, for their part, battled from two goals down to register a 3-2 first-leg win against Suwon Bluewings at home before staging another stunning comeback today to snatch a 3-3 draw that secured their maiden appearance in the Asian showpiece.
Al Sadd 1-1 Persepolis (1-2 agg) Kashima Antlers 3-3 Suwon Bluewings (6-5 agg)
Milestone achievements Reaching the AFC Champions League final marks another milestone feat for Persepolis, who last year made history by making it to the last four for the first time. Having successfully defended their Persian Gulf Pro League title this season, the Tehran giants, under Croatian manager Branko Ivankovic, will now have their sights set firmly on winning a domestic and continental double.
On-song Alipour This Champions League campaign been notable for the emergence of Persepolis' young striking ace Ali Alipour. The 23-year-old hitman has been on target five times and scored the only goal of the semi-final first leg against Al Sadd in propel his side towards the final. With Alipour also having struck 19 times as Persepolis retained their domestic title, it is no wonder that he is being heralded in Iran and beyond as a rising star.
Comeback kings Having overcome a two-goal first-half deficit to draw 2-2 against Shanghai Shenhua during the group phase, Antlers went on to demonstrate their trademark resilience in the semi-final clash against Suwon. Trailing by two goals inside only six minutes in the first leg, the J League powerhouses fought back gallantly and drew level with six minutes to play, before Atsuto Uchida grabbed an injury-time winner. That story repeated itself again in the return, with Antlers trailing 3-1 after an hour’s play. Again, and just as they looked destined to go out, Daigo Nishi struck to draw the aggregate scoreline level before Serginho grabbed the tie-winning goal with eight minutes remaining.
First leg: 3 November Kashima Antlers-Persepolis
Second leg: 10 November Persepolis-Kashima Antlers