Al Nasr coach Ivan Jovanovic paid tribute to his players after their historic AFC Champions League voyage continued with a place in the quarter-finals secured.
The Blue Wave had a far rougher ride than they would have expected following a 4-1 thrashing of Tractor Sazi in the first leg a week ago.
Their advantage was extended to 5-1 early on when Salem Saleh dispatched Jonathan Pitroipa’s fine cross to open the scoring in Tabriz.
Three Tractor goals in 26 second-half minutes, however, whipped the majority of the 67,858 crowd inside Yadegar-e Emam Stadium into a frenzy and left the Blue Wave repelling a tide of constant late attacks.
Jovanovic acknowledged his team had to work hard towards the end but felt they deserved their 5-4 aggregate victory.
“My special thanks to my players,” said Jovanovic following the game. “Perhaps Tractor Sazi attacked more during the (two) games but we were the more effective team. Tractor Sazi are a very powerful team. In football, if you don’t deserve it, you will not go through to the next round.”
Striker Farzad Hatami leveled the scores on the night just after there-start to give his side a glimmer of hope before Mohammad Iranporian’s rocket sent the home fans soaring as Tractor began to believe.
A second for Hatami meant one more would have taken the tie to extra-time, but Nasr held on to continue their fairytale run.
“I congratulate Al Nasr on this victory,” said Tractor coach Amir Ghalenoei. “We should have scored five or six goals but it didn’t happen. This is one of my bad days. We played good football but couldn’t emerge victorious.”