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[AFC Champions League] Sepahan 3 - 1 Al Wahda

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Posted on Friday, October 5 2007

(AFC.COM - ESFAHAN) - Striker Mahmoud Karimi scored a goal in each half to help steer Iranian side Sepahan to a 3-1 victory against Al Wahda of the United Arab Emirates in the first leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final clash at Foolad Shahr Stadium on Wednesday.

Karimi gave his side the lead after 11 minutes and restored their advantage with his second just before the hour mark after Mohamed Al Shehhi had levelled the score early in the second half for an Al Wahda side who played for nearly an hour with 10 men after defender Yasser Abdullah was sent off.

Sepahan skipper Moharram Navidkia added a third from the penalty spot in the closing minutes to give the Hazfi Cup holders a two-goal advantage to take into the second leg in Abu Dhabi on October 24.

The start of the game was delayed for four minutes after Sepahan fans threw objects at Al Wahda’s Moroccan goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri but when it finally kicked off, it was the home side that grabbed the initiative.

They nearly took the lead after nine minutes when Hossein Kazemi fired in a long range missile from 30 yards that Lamyaghri dived low to his left to turn out for a corner.

The home side were celebrating two minutes later when Karimi took advantage of confusion in the Al Wahda defence to open the scoring.

A long throw-in by Ehsan Hajysafi from the left wing was unintentionally flicked towards goal by Al Wahda defender Leonardo Da Silva, under pressure from Mohsen Bankar. Lamyaghri blocked the ball with his leg but Karimi was on hand in the six-yard box to poke the ball into the net.

Sepahan could have doubled their advantage in the 17th minute when Navidkia touched a free kick to Hadi Aghily whose long range strike swerved towards the target but was punched away awkwardly by Lamyaghri for a corner.

The visitors were struggling to contain the Iranian side and their problems were compounded on 33 minutes when they were reduced to 10 men after defender Yasser Abdullah was shown his second yellow card by Singapore referee Abdul Malik Abdul Bashir for a foul on Sepahan striker Mahmoud Karimi.

Al Wahda’s first chance only arrived in the 39 minute when Yasser Matar fired a long range shot wide of the right post while Tawfeeq Abdulrazzaq should have done better four minutes later when he was released into the box by a brilliant back-heel by Mohamed Al Shehhi but saw his shot blocked by the legs of Sepahan goalkeeper Abbas Mohammadi.

The UAE side were much improved at the start of the second half and equalised three minutes after the break when Matar squared the ball across the edge of the box to Al Shehhi, who delayed his shot, wrong-footing Jaba Mujiri, before sending the ball past a diving Abbas Mohammadi into the lower right corner of the Sepahan goal.

Al Wahda could have taken the lead in the 54th minute when Al Shehhi went past Saeid Bayat in the box and fired in a shot that Mohammadi turned aside for a corner.

Sepahan took advantage of the let-off and regained the lead in the 58th minute as Karimi pounced for his second goal on the night.

Ehsan Hajysafi ran on to a long ball from the back and beat Eisa Ahmed before firing in a shot that was well stopped by Lamyaghri. Leonardo attempted to hack the ball clear but it hit fellow defender Bashir Saeed and went back towards goal. Lamyaghri stopped the ball again but Karimi was on hand to put the rebound past the Moroccan goalkeeper to make it 2-1.

Mohammadi helped Sepahan to keep their lead with a brilliant double save on 70 minutes, stopping Mohamed Othman’s powerful long range effort before diving to his left to deny Al Shehhi on the follow up.

Sepahan made the game safe seven minutes from time when they were awarded a controversial penalty after Karimi went down in the box under minimal contact from Leonardo.

Navidkia gave Lamyaghri no chance, sending the spot kick into the bottom left corner to give Sepahan a two-goal cushion to take to Abu Dhabi.


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