Fifteen years to the date after a 96th-minute winner had seen Persepolis beat Sepahan 2-1 to overtake its opponent for the top spot on the final day of the season, the Reds again pipped the Isfahan-based club to the Pro League crown, thanks to a 4-0 away victory over Nassaji Mazandaran.
Needing maximum points in Qaemshahr’s Vatani Stadium to secure the title, Persepolis supporters had their stress eased early on this time around when Ali Nemati’s hammered home from close range with less than two minutes into the game after a Mehdi Torabi’s set-piece ended up on the fullback’s boot.
Nassaji centerback Mehrdad Abdi received his marching orders for a second bookable offense in the 15th minute and Saeed Sadeqi doubled the lead for Persepolis with a composed finish right before the half-hour mark.
Persepolis kept dominating the contest until Soroush Rafiei bagged the third goal with a sublime strike from behind the box in the 75th minute and Milad Sarlak, who scored the first goal of the campaign for Persepolis, fired in from long range three minutes later to round off a season of twists and turns for the Tehran-based Reds in style.
When a Mohammad Karimi’s last-gasp strike gave Sepahan a 1-0 win against Persepolis in Tehran back in March, the Reds’ title quest looked in tatters, as they fell to third in the table – four points behind then leader Sepahan.
However, a remarkable run of seven successive wins after the Persian New Year’s vacations – including a massive one-goal triumph over archrival Esteghlal in the Tehran derby – propelled Persepolis to a sixth league trophy in seven years.
“We didn’t give up after the Sepahan defeat and moved on with aspiration. We set a benchmark for other players and managers, and Persepolis is definitely the team to be inspired by as a role model for the rest of the league,” said Persepolis manager Yahya Golmohammadi, who has now won the league three times since taking over midway through the 2019/20 season.
Persepolis remains on course for a second double in four years and will take on Havadar in the Hazfi Cup last-four on Thursday.
“Our season is not finished yet and we’ll start preparing for the Havadar game tomorrow. I’ve told my players that the next game is the most important of the season for us and I just hope we can keep up the recent momentum until we win the Hazfi Cup,” Golmohammadi added.
There was all to play for in Kerman’s Shahid Bahonar Stadium as Sepahan, trailing the top by a single point, was craving for the Reds’ slip while Mes Kerman hoped a draw would be enough for the host to avoid relegation.
Milad Zakipour’s strike for Sepahan five minutes after the break did little to uplift the away fans in Kerman, who had heard about Persepolis’s two-goal lead at halftime, but it was surely music to the ears for San’at Naft Abadan supporters, whose team was level on points with Mes prior to Thursday’s visit to Golgohar Sirjan, needing to better Mes Kerman’s result to move out of the relegation zone.
Shahriyar Moghanlou tapped in a second goal for Sepahan in the 90th minute to finish as the league topscorer with 13 strikes.
Hassan Moradifar pulled one back for the home side but it was too little too late as Farzad Hosseinkhani’s side is back in the second-tier league after one season, while Sepahan was left ruing the 1-1 home draw against Malavan in April, in which the host conceded the equalizer with four minutes from normal time.
In Sirjan, when Mehdi Mamizadeh netted the winner for San’at Naft in the first minute of the stoppage time, the survival mission was accomplished for head coach Abdollah Veisi.
San’at was eight points adrift of the safety zone when Veisi was appointed to the job in March, but made the most of Mes Kerman’s wobble by collecting 12 points in a six-game unbeaten run – including a 1-1 draw against Esteghlal in Tehran.
Elsewhere, the shocking result of the day came in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, where Mehdi Qaedi scored a hat-trick and Abolfazl Jalali, Mohammad-Hossein Moradmand, Arash Rezavand, and Ja’far Salmani were also on the scoresheet as Esteghlal thrashed fourth-place Tractor 7-1.
In Ahavaz, Saeed Vase’ei and Mohammad-Amin Hazbavi scored inside nine minutes to give Foolad Khuzestan a two-goal lead against Aluminium Arak, only to see their lead canceled out thanks to late goals by Mohammadreza Azadi – from the spot – and Reza Jabireh as it finished 2-2.
Zob Ahan and Havadar shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller in Isfahan, while Paykan and Mes Rafsanjan played to a 1-1 draw in Tehran.
Naft Masjed Soleyman, whose relegation had been secured last week, defeated Malavan 5-1.