Inspired by former AS Roma and Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, the visitors took the lead in the 25th minute, when Shahin Abdulrahman’s free header on a corner kick went past Tractor keeper Hossein Pourhamidi to silence the jam-packed crowd at the Yadegar-e Iman Stadium in Tabriz.
Tractor’s desperate push for an equalizer in the second half left Paco Jémez’s men vulnerable in the backline and they were punished late as Guinean striker Osmane Camara doubled Sharjah’s lead with six minutes left on the clock.
Just when the Tractor faithful were leaving the stadium substitute Mehdi Hashemnejad headed home two minutes later to give his team a lifeline.
However, Brazilian Caio Lucas shattered Tractor’s hopes for a dramatic comeback, sending Pourhamidi the wrong way from the spot in the 90th minute.
The result summed up a dreadful 13 days for Tractor after back-to-back defeats against Sepahan and Persepolis in the start of the new Iranian top-flight season.
Tractor’s setback also means Iran will be represented by three clubs in today’s draw for the Asian elite clubs’ competition at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur.
Reigning Iranian league and cup champion Persepolis is in Pot 1 of the West Zone and will avoid Saudi Pro League giants Al Hilal and Al Ittihad as well as Qatar’s Al Sadd SC, and Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in the group stage.
The Tehran Reds could still be pitted against Saudi team Al Nassr and its Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in a repeat of the 2020 semifinals, which Persepolis won in the shootout.
Ronaldo and Sadio Mané had Anderson Talisca to thank for a group spot, after the Brazilian scored a brace – including a 95th-minute strike – as Al Nassr came from behind to beat Shabab Al Ahli Dubai 4-2 in the playoffs on Tuesday.
Runner-up to Persepolis in the Iranian league last season, Sepahan is joined by the 2022 Hazfi Cup champion Nassaji Mazandaran in Pot 2 – also featuring Qatari club Al Duhail SC, Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf, and Saudi side Al Fayha FC.