A deflected shootout helped Persepolis beat an undaunted northern side Nojan 9-8 at home and Sepahan struck three to seal an away 3-1 victory over Saba Battery in Iran’s League Cup semifinals Sunday.
What loomed large in Persepolis-Nojan game was the uneven clay pitch of Mottaqi Stadium of the northern capital Sari that posed as the main enemy.
Nojan gave the visitor the first scare, rattling the crossbar after nine minutes and Persepolis responded two minutes later through right winger Shayth Rezaei, whose kick from close range hit the post and striker Mehrzad Ma’danchi poked home the rebound, but his opener was flagged offside, reported the English-language daily Tehran Times in its Monday’s edition.
The transformed Ma’danchi, who had netted five in the last two games, rifled home with a spectacular 25-yard drive on 41 minutes.
His opener was, however, canceled out at the stoppage time by Nojan skipper Mohsen Pourhaji, whose set-piece flew over the crowded area and staring keeper Mohammad Mohammadi before finding the net.
Both sides played high ball after the restart, seeking a stroke of luck on the low-quality field.
Persepolis looked to be the winner as the referee Mohsen Torki awarded a controversial penalty kick to the Reds one minute from normal time and Ma’danchi converted.
Nojan manager Reza Taqavi, who had ordered his players to quit the pitch as a gesture of opposition, sent them back in the hope of leveling the game at the seven-minute additional time.
Half of the stadium was empty during the dying minutes, but the home stands were refilled when Karim Mehdizadeh chested down the ball inside the area before propelling it past Mohammadi.
Minnow Nojan, which is fighting against relegation at the First Division, tried to kill time at the extra time, pinning all its hopes on live-wire goalie Hassan Khatir.
The tactic seemed effective when Persepolis captain Karim Baqeri sent Khatir the wrong way, but his spot-kick rattled the post.
Baqeri, however, breathed a sigh of relief when Nojan missed the second, too.
Mohammadi restored some prestige, denying the northerners in their ninth and 10th attempts and giving substitutes Sohrab Entezari and Davoud Seyed-Abbassi the chance to save the final berth for the capital’s side.
Entezari did not make it, but Seyed-Abbassi was pretty lucky as his kick shook the post, taking a vicious deflection off Khatir’s back and finding the back of the net.
In another semifinal on a velvet pitch in Derakhshan Stadium in Sabashahr, southwest of Tehran, the visiting Sepahan scored one before halftime and two after the break, setting up the final against Persepolis.
Mohammad Nouri took the lead for the Isfahan-based visitor, firing home on 40 minutes from behind the 5.5-yard box.
Saba Battery received the second blow when Jalal Akbari made it 2-0 with a chip in the 73rd minute.
Supported by over 10,000 fans, Saba pulled one back five minutes later through the advancing defender Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh, who astonishing left drive from an acute angle kissed the net.
But Massoud Mansouri played as an Akbari copycat, beating keeper Elmir Toulia three minutes deep into stoppage time.
The Football Federation has yet to announce the date for the final showdown.