Al Jazira talking points from painful ACL exit at Persepolis as Romarinho shows big-game mentality

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Persepolis captain Jalal Hosseini celebrates his late winner against Al Jazira in the 2018 AFC Champions League.

Returning Persepolis captain Jalal Hosseini decisively struck in the 89th minute at a packed Azadi Stadium to painfully deny brave Al Jazira a debut berth in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals.

Here are the talking points from Monday’s engaging round-of-16 decider in Tehran.

JUST AS JAZIRA COULD DREAM…

The contrast to last week’s slow-burning, 3-2 opener at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium could not have been made starker from the off.

Persepolis went for the jugular, knowing only victory would likely do, with a 4-4-2 formation in front of their baying 80,000-capacity crowd at the Azadi.

The Persian Gulf Pro League-holders had 21 shots to Jazira’s three, their 517 passes was 271 more than the visitors and they had 69 per cent of possession.

But this all seemed academic when Brazilian forward Romarinho beautifully found the bottom corner from 25 yards on 70 minutes, soon after midfielder Ahmad Nourollahi’s venomous breakthrough.

Henk ten Cate’s troops then appeared to have ridden the storm, only for veteran defender Mohammed Fayez’s tired clearance to land at the feet of the grateful Hosseini.

Al Jazira players celebrate Romarinho's goal.

Al Jazira players celebrate Romarinho’s goal.

MAN FOR THE BIG OCCASION

Much was expected when the Pride of Abu Dhabi stole Romarinho last summer from the QNB Stars League.

He’d been prolific there for the amalgamated El Jaish, scoring 40 times in 72 top-flight run-outs. That makes his 2017/18 return for the deposed Arabian Gulf League champions, of just seven in 20 matches, disappointing.

But there is a significant caveat. The 27-year-old struck against Real Madrid in December’s Club World Cup semi-finals and in both legs versus Persepolis.

KEEP HOLD OF HENK

Changes will surely follow this summer – they always do.

Yet one man who deserves to stay is Ten Cate. Under chaotic circumstances off the pitch, the coach with an expiring deal nearly claimed another landmark achievement.

There is no better candidate to put Pride in Jazira’s name than the 63-year-old Dutchman.

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