The defeat to the Iranian means the Indian champions will join Bengaluru FC in the continent’s second tier competition the AFC Cup.
Indian champions Aizawl FC went down fighting as they lost 3-1 away to Iranian side Zob Ahan in the AFC Chamions League playoff match played at the Foolad Shahr Stadium, Isfahan Province earlier this evening.
Mehdi Rajabzadeh gave the hosts the lead from the penalty spot in the third minute but the northeast outfit hit back through Andre Ionescu on 21 minutes. However, just as the game looked destined for extra-time a late brace from M. Tabziri sealed the game for the hosts and with it progression to the group stages of the competion. Meanwhile, for Aizawl the defeat means they drop down to the continent’s second tier competion the AFC Cup.
Zob Ahan began the game in a fine tempo against a young Aizawl side. The visitors looked switched off in the very initial minutes of the first half and Zobahan took full advantage of it when Mehdi Tazabdeh scored from the penalty kick due to Lalrosanga’s foul on Tabrizi inside the box earned them a penalty only in the 2nd minute of the game.
The home side enjoyed lion’s share of possession in the game and tried firing all arms in their ammunition to double the lead. Going into the interval, they looked positive and would have been kicking themselves as they were unlucky on several occasions to take the lead. But goalie Avilash Paul and Aizawl’s backline resisted the opposition attack at all costs.
In the absence of regular strikers, Romanian attacking midfielder Andrei Ionescu lead Aizawl’s attacking line. But the Iranian side’s high pressing game isolated the Aizawl man up front. However in the 21st minute, a Renthlei Laldinthliana cross found Ionescu at the centre of the box which was brilliantly put in the bottom left corner by the make-shift striker.
The harsh Iranian winter made life a bit tough for the Aizawl players on the pitch as they looked second best all throughout the game. The game had to be halted several times as the away side needed to nurse their injuries every now and then.
The home side began the second half with the similar frame of mind and Aizawl hardly had the opportunity to intercept the ball and run loose. It was clearly visible how Zobahan FC ran the entire game on their own terms as the visitors conceded silly free kicks out of frustated physical challenges. In the 83rd minute Morteza Tabrizi earned his side the lead as he scored from a Reza Hosseini assist following a set piece situation. Aizawl could never recover from the slip as they dug themselves deeper. In the injury time the Iranian side killed the game as another Reza Hosseini assist found the same man Tabrizi who netted his second and his side’s third goal.
Paul’s counterpart Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri had to play the role of a spectator in most part of the game. However the goalie dealt with minor scares with ease when Aizawl FC managed to break free with the ball on counter attacks.
For Zobahan FC, Morteza Tabrizi and Milad Fakhreddini were brilliant on the ball as they supported their central striker Kiros by feeding in through balls and whipping in crosses into the box.