0306 GMT January 23, 2019
Persepolis manager Branko Ivankovic believes three defensive gaffes cost his side dearly against Al Jazira as the Persian Gulf Pro League champion suffered a 3-2 away defeat in the last-16 round of the 2018 AFC Champions League on Monday.
Ali Alipour gave the Reds a well-deserved lead with a fine header right before the interval but some sloppy defending by Shoja’ Khalilzadeh let Al Jazira’s Ali Mabkhout equalize seven minutes into the second half before Brazilian Romarinho easily found his way through Persepolis backline to make it 2-1 in favor of the host in the 77th minute.
Persepolis quickly responded as Godwin Mensha converted on his second attempt from the spot six minutes from time.
Just when Ivankovic’s men thought they had clinched an important away draw, defender Khalifa Mubarak scored through a free header on MubarAk Boussoufa's free-kick for the host’s third goal right at the death.
“I believe Al Jazira deserved the victory because we made three horrible mistakes and at the Asian Champions League you can’t afford to make these errors,” said the Croatian after the match in Abu Dhabi.
“Of course it’s still a good result and we can go through with a 1-0 or 2-1 victory in the second leg,” Ivankovic added.
“[Kamal] Kamyabinia’s injury also cost us in the closing stages but we will have to build on two away goals and go for the victory in Tehran,”
“Nothing in football is taken for granted, we conceded three easy goals today and need to avoid the repeat of today’s mistakes in the return leg. I believe we’re a better team than Al Jazira and are capable of beating them with a more disciplined performance.”
Persepolis will count on the support of thousands of passionate fans when hosting the Emirati side at the Azadi Stadium next Monday.