The capital-based Persepolis clinched Persian Gulf Pro League title with a 1-0 win over the southern side Pars Jonoubi Jam for the third consecutive year in Bushehr Province on Thursday.
A first-half goal by Croatian striker Mario Budimir was enough to give Iranian Reds the victory and seal the title for Branko Ivankovic’s men – who only needed to avoid a defeat heading into the last game of the season.
The victory saw Persepolis claim the title with 61 points with the Isfahan-based club Sepahan (58pts) and Reds’ archrival Esteghlal (57pts) finishing second and third, respectively.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s Padideh finished its decent campaign in fourth place to keep hopes alive of qualification for next year’s AFC Champions League (ACL), should Persepolis or Sepahan beat the third tier side Damash Gilan in the Hazfi Cup (Iran’s domestic cup competition) final on May 30.
‘Toughest of all’
Reds’ manager Ivankovic – whose team has been dominating the Iranian league for the past three seasons – believes his side’s third successive League title was the ‘toughest of the three’.
“The third title was the toughest one, which reflects our consistency,” said the Croatian manager after the game.
“There are not too many teams in the world who could win three consecutive league titles,” Ivankovic added.
“We experienced some adverse circumstances over the season – a two- window transfer ban and a congested fixtures list – which made it even a more pleasant achievement, especially when no one really helped us en route to the title.”
Speaking of the Thursday night’s game, the 65-year-old said, “Our players were under a lot of pressure prior to the game as the expectations were so high. The pitch quality was also against our style of play, but the players still produced a heroic performance.”
Persepolis – which has already failed to book a place in the ACL knockouts with a game to spare in the group stage – is still in contention with a first domestic double under Ivankovic as it faces Sepahan in the Hazfi Cup semifinals on May 24.