ALEPPO – Sepahan closed in on a spot in the last eight of the AFC Champions League with a 5-0 demolition of hosts Al Ittihad at Al Hamdania stadium on Wednesday.
Mohammed Noori and Emad Mohammed scored two goals each after Abdul Wahab Abolheil had opened the scoring for the Iranian Hazfi Cup holders, who remained at the top of Group D.
Sepahan now have 10 points and need only a draw from their last game against Al Shabab in Esfahan to top the group and qualify for the knockout stage by virtue of their better head-to-head record against the Saudi side.
The visitors started the match brightly and could have gone ahead after only six minutes when they were awarded a penalty kick. However, Seyed Hadi Aghily was unable to give his side the advantage as he was brilliantly denied by Al Ittihad goalkeeper Mahmoud Karkar.
However, it was only a brief reprieve for the home side as they fell behind four minutes later when Abdul Wahab Abolheil drove into the Al Ittihad box from the left flank before firing the ball into the top of the net to give Sepahan the lead.
The Iranians nearly doubled the lead in the 16th minute when Seyed Salehi, who scored in the first meeting between the two sides in March, saw his powerful shot come back off the woodwork before Saeid Bayat’s follow-up was pushed to safety by Karkar.
It was 2-0 in the 39th minute when Seyed Salehi came in from the left flank and crossed to Mohammed Noori, who tapped the ball into the net to confirm his side’s first-half dominance.
The situation remained the same after the interval and Sepahan added a third goal in the 55th minute when Iraq international Emad Mohammed sent in a cross from the right which eluded and Sayed Salehi and found the head of Noori for his second goal of the game.
On 70 minutes, Mohammed turned from provider to scorer as he launched a quick counter-attack from midfield, finding the net with a low shot past the Syrian goalkeeper.
Seyed Salehi should have added his name to the score sheet in the 83rd minute with a powerful drive that was well saved by Karkar.
But the visitors would get their fifth in the final minute when Noori charged upfield and set up Emad Mohammed for his second of the night to complete the rout.