A scene of the match between Iranian football clubs Sepahan (in yellow) and Esteqlal at Tehran’s Azadi stadium on March 30, 2013
Iranian football powerhouse Sepahan has routed Esteqlal 5-4 in the penalty shootouts to advance into the final of Iran’s Hazfi (knockout) Cup.
The match was played on Saturday at Tehran’s Azadi stadium with more than 65,000 spectators in attendance.
Sepahan players started the match brightly. They could quickly establish themselves and bring the game under control.
In the 26th minute, Sepahan’s defender Farshid Talebi was shown the red card for a foul on Esteqlal’s player Arash Borhani.
Sepahan continued to exert a good spell of pressure on the Blues, and it was Mohammadreza Khalatbari who opened the scoring for the Isfahan-based club 41 minutes into the match.
Esteqlal footballers had a handful of good opportunities during the first half of the game to score goals for their club but they missed their chances.
The Blues played with more purpose, going forward just after the break, and went close to score the equalizer.
In the 63rd minute, the referee, Alireza Faghani, flashed a red card and dismissed Esteqlal’s defender Khosro Heidari from the turf.
Esteqlal finally leveled the game a minute later, when Farzad Hatami sailed the ball into the back of Sepahan’s net.
Both teams failed to produce a winner in the remaining minutes of the full regular time as well as the 30-minute extra time, and it was ultimately the fateful spot-kicks that separated the two sides and determined the winner of the match.
The Hazfi Cup is a knockout cup competition run by the Iranian Football Federation. The competition was not regarded as important by clubs until the Iranian Football Federation decided to award one of Iran's Asian Football Confederation Champions League spots to the Hazfi Cup champion.
Sepahan will now face the winner of the match between Persepolis and Damash -- scheduled to be held on April 5 at Rasht's Shahid Azodi stadium.