Ex-champion Esteghlal Khuzestan promoted back to Persian Gulf Pro League

Esteghlal Khuzestan, a former champion in the Persian Gulf Pro League, is back in the Iranian top-flight after a four-year absence, thanks to a 5-0 victory over Arman Gohar in Ahvaz on the final day of the Azadegan League season.
Ali Helichi gave the host a 15th-minute lead at the Ghadir Stadium before Javad Aqaeipour and Behrouz Barani scored in the space of seven minutes to all but secure the three points by the half-hour mark.
Aqaeipour bagged his second of the day right before the interval, and Keykhosro Siahpour sealed the victory for the southern Iranian Blues in the fourth minute of the stoppage time.
Nicknamed ‘Leicester City of Iran’ after stunning football fans in the country with a top-flight crown in 2016, Sirous Pourmousavi’s men finished second in the Azadegan League table with 57 points – two points clear of third-place Saipa, also an ex-Iranian league champion, which defeated Esteghlal Mollasani 4-0 but will have to settle for another season in the second-tier league.
Dedicating the achievement to the people of Ahvaz, Pourmousavi was full of praise for his players for “their relentless efforts throughout the season.”
“We experienced a really tough 11 months. Things did not quite go well for us earlier in the season, but the solidarity within the team paid off as we managed to rally in the second half of the campaign,” added Pourmousavi, who led the Esteghlal Khuzestan to the round of 16 at the AFC Champions League in 2017 before an aggregate defeat against Saudi giant Al Hilal.
Esteghlal Khuzestan joins Shams Azar Qazvin, which had secured a first-ever promotion to the Pro League with three games to spare, finishing atop the table with a remarkable 70 points.


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