By Michael Church
HONG KONG, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Striker Issa Alekasir was on target as Iran’s Persepolis beat 10-man Pakhtakor from Uzbekistan 2-0 in the quarter-finals of the Asian Champions League on Wednesday, setting up a semi-final meeting on Saturday with Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr.
Al Nassr advanced to the last four of the continental championship earlier in the day with a 2-0 win over fellow Saudi Arabian side Al Ahli at the Jassim Al Hamad Stadium in Doha, where matches are being hosted in a centralised tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alekasir scored three days after helping his team past Qatar’s Al Sadd in the previous round.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s side, however, only took command of proceedings against the Uzbekistan champions following Jaloliddin Masharipov’s sending off in the 15th minute.
The side from Tashkent had been on top in the opening exchanges until Masharipov saw the yellow card initially awarded by referee Adham Makhadmeh for a reckless lunge on Kamal Kamyabinia upgraded to red after the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee.
The loss of the forward robbed Pakhtakor of attacking thrust and the Iranians took control, opening the scoring seven minutes before the break when Alekasir swept home Saeed Aghaei’s cross from the right.
Aghaei switched to the left to provide the centre for Persepolis’ second in the 66th minute that Pakhtakor defender Anzur Ismailov turned into his own net under pressure from Alekasir.
Al Nassr won their battle with Al Ahli to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since finishing as runners-up in the 1995 Asian Club Championship, the competition’s predecessor.
Gonzalo Martinez put Rui Vitoria’s side in front 13 minutes into the game before Abderrazak Hamdallah missed two gilt-edged chances to double Al Nassr’s lead later in the half.
The Riyadh-based side had to wait until 10 minutes into the second half before scoring their second, with Abdulfattah Asiri picking up possession just inside the penalty area and smashing his shot past Mohammed Al Owais.
“We still haven’t done anything because our target is to reach the final and we have an important match on Saturday,” said Al Nassr midfielder Abdulmajeed Al Sulayhem.
“Hopefully we can win so we can play in the final.” The winner of Saturday’s meeting will advance to the final, which will be played on Dec. 19 against the leading team from the east of the continent.
The remaining matches in the eastern half of the draw are scheduled to be played in a centralised venue from Nov. 18 to Dec. 13.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Toby Davis)