(Reuters) - Iran’s Persepolis reached the Asian Champions League final on Saturday with a 5-3 penalty shootout victory over Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr in Doha, despite finishing with 10 men and having lost their key striker to a six-month ban just hours before kick-off.
Ali Shojaei netted the decisive spot kick after Brazilian defender Maicon’s effort was saved by Persepolis goalkeeper Hamed Lak in the penultimate round of penalties as the Iranians made their second final in three years.
The game finished 1-1 at both full-time and following 30 minutes extra time after Al Nassr’s Abderrazak Hamdallah had seen his 36th minute penalty cancelled out by Mehdi Abdi’s header six minutes later.
Persepolis prevailed on an eventful day for the Tehran-based club, who learned in the build-up that prolific forward Issa Alekasir would not be eligible to play.
The Asian Football Confederation banned the 30-year-old for a “discriminatory gesture” after he had scored in the previous game against Pakhtakor, of Uzbekistan.
Al Nassr went in front when Khaled Al Ghannam was brought down by Resan and Hamdallah chipped his effort down the middle as Lak dropped to his right.
Alekasir’s replacement Abdi equalised three minutes before the interval, drifting free of Maicon before heading home Bashar Resan’s cross from the right.
Persepolis were reduced to 10 when Ehsan Pahlavan’s foul on Osama Al Khalaf earned him a second yellow card a minute before the extra-time interval.
After both teams were flawless through the first three rounds of the shootout, Lak dived to his right to deny Maicon and leave Shojaei to score the decisive penalty.
The Iranians last reached the final of the Asian Champions League in 2018, where they lost to Japan’s Kashima Antlers.
“Al Nassr are good team, but we played against them with 10 men and had we played 90 more minutes they wouldn’t have been able to score against us,” said midfielder Resan.
“When we defeated Al Sadd (in the round of 16) we knew that we would go to the final as our victory against them showed that no one can stop us.”
The final will be played on December 19, when Persepolis meet the leading team from the east of the continent. The eastern group phase will recommence in mid-November.
Reporting by Michael Church; editing by Ian Chadband
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