Perspolis news agency: Eamon Zayed bagged a hat-trick on his AFC Champions League debut as Iranian giants Perspolis crushed Al Shabab Al Arabi of the United Arab Emirates 6-1 on Wednesday at the Azadi Stadium for their biggest ever win in the competition.
Gholamreza Rezaei, Ali Karimi and Amirhossein Feshangchi also netted for the Tehran side in the Group D clash, while Brazilian striker Ciel got Al Shabab’s lone reply from the penalty spot.
Perspolis moved to the top of the group with four points from two games, ahead of Wednesday’s later match between Al Gharafa of Qatar and Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia.
Roared on by a packed Azadi Stadium, Perspolis began the match with plenty of attacking intent and they could have taken the lead in the opening 30 seconds as Mohammad Noori’s powerful strike hit the post.
However, it did not take the home side too long before they had the lead. On eight minutes, a free-kick by Mehrdad Pooladi was knocked back to an unattended Zayed, who fired past goalkeeper Ismail Jumaa into the top right corner of the net from 15 metres out.
The score remained 1-0 to the hosts at half-time but that would change quickly after the break as five goals were scored in a frantic 15-minute spell.
Zayed netted his second two minutes after the break, flicking the ball into the net with a cheeky back-heel after the ball had been cut back to him from the right byline.
And the Ireland-born Libya international, who became a fan favourite with the Perspolis fans after his match-winning hat-trick against Esteghlal last month, completed another treble when he scored again in the 53rd minute, taking a feed from Noori on the right of the Al Shabab box and firing home from a tight angle
Al Shabab reduced the deficit three minutes later when they were awarded a penalty for Mohammad Nosrati’s foul on Walid Abbas and Ciel calmly chipped the spot kick past goalkeeper Asmir Avdukic into the middle of the net.
But there would be no respite for the visitors as Gholamreza Rezaei beat the offside trap to race onto Ali Karimi’s through ball before chipping the ball over Jumaa to make it 4-1 on the hour.
Karimi then made it 5-1 two minutes later, tucking away a penalty and Feshangchi completed the scoring in the 87th minute when he was picked out by Shic Rezaei’s long pass and flicked the ball past Jumaa in a one-on-one showdown.
Perspolis coach Mustafa Denizli dedicated the win to the Perspolis fans, who came out in big numbers to support their side on the Persian New Year holidays.
“First of all we were in a debt for a New Year’s gift to the Perspolis fans and the other Iranian people, so I am happy that we could carry out our promise,” said the Turk.
“Perspolis are improving day by day. We outclassed out opponents in the first half and we could have increased our advantage then. But we took advantage after the interval and we deserved our win.
“The AFC Champions League has brought a lot of pressure on our players but we managed to score a lot of goals and we are very pleased that the result has made so many thousands of people happy.”
For Al Shabab coach Paulo Bonamigo, his team’s willingness to open up and try to take the game to the home side backfired badly.
“Our special strategy for today’s match became infeasible as the game went on,” said the Brazilian.
“We had some chances in the first half but we didn’t play well at all after the break which led to Perspolis getting their goals. We had analysed Piroozi closely but the day belonged to them.
“Our expectations were not fulfilled and the players didn’t observe our plans.”