A second half goal by former Olympic team striker Hamid Shafiei handed Luka Bonacic’s Sepahan Esfahan a draw in the 2006 Iranian League Cup final’s first leg against Persepolis in Tehran’s Azadi stadium.
The clash, originally scheduled for May, had been postponed in order not to disturb the national team’s World Cup preperations.
In a rather balanced first half barely any chances were created on either side. While Persepolis’ crosses mostly lacked presicion, Sepahan playmaker Moharram Navidkia, who was involved in almost any attack of visiting side, saw most of his many attempted throughballs being easily intercepted.
The red clad hosts had the bigger share of the few scoring opportunities before the break, but first Alireza Nikbakht Vahedi’s spectacular overhead splash went narrowly wide, before Mehrzad Madanchi found himself in promising position but saw his mishit shot going wide.
On the other side Shafiei looked like breaking the deadlock, however, the former Zob Ahan striker failed to get his effort on target after he had perfectly been sent through on goal by Navidkia.
Shortly before the halftime whistle a piece of scandalous refereeing alsmot gave Persepolis Tehran the lead, when Hossein Badamaki fell like being striked by a lightning after feeling the lightest touch of Hadi Aghili’s hand on his back and referee Torki awarded a penalty kick.
Mehrzad Madanchi’s effort was saved by Armenak Petrossian, however, the linesman indicated two Sepahan players had entered the box too early – an obviously wrong call which gave Madanchi a second chance from the spot though. But the Team Melli leftwinger couldn’t keep his cool and hammered the ball over the bar.
Anyway, just moments later the hosts finally went ahead, when Badamaki penetrated the box from the left side and beautifully inscened Nikbakht, who had little problems notching home from close range two minutes into first half’s injury time.
Sepahan had no response to the lead after the break, rather Mustafa Denizli’s team came close to doubling the lead twice. First Madanchi showed a good solo run on the left side but Nikbakht failed to convert his teammate’s service and then Czech import Robert Saha showed an equally good run on the left before inscening Badamaki, who’s too central shot could be saved by Petrossian.
Against the run of play, Sepahan managed to mark the important away goal in minute 74. Hamid Shafiei’s slightly deflected shot from the edge of the penalty area left Persepolis goalkeeper Farshid Karimi no chance and put Sepahan in comfortable position for the second leg.
The winners of the Iranian Hazfi Cup final will earn a berth in the upcoming AFC Champions League.