The inexperienced Pride of Abu Dhabi headed out on Monday into the cauldron atmosphere created by a fevered 80,000-capacity crowd at Azadi Stadium with a 3-2 advantage from last week’s home leg.
They appeared poised for a first-ever progression into the quarter-finals after Brazilian forward Romarinho’s low strike on 70 minutes – his sixth goal in eight continental games this term – immediately cancelled out anchorman Ahmad Nourollahi’s thunderbolt.
But waves of pressure, from a match in which the 11-time Persian Gulf Pro League holders had 69 per cent possession, finally told at the death. A jaded clearance from Musallem Fayez was immediately half-volleyed home by fellow veteran centre-back Jalal Hosseini to spark wild celebrations in the red half of Tehran.
“To lose like this in the 89th minute… we were very close,” said Ten Cate, who could have overseen the last match of his transformative two-and-a-half-year stint. “I think we did very well.
“It is hard to lose like this. We kicked the ball out for an injury and we didn’t get it back. From that action, they scored.
“We can learn from this. If you kick the ball out, kick it far away. But that is the inexperience of the team.
“We stayed so long within a fantastic atmosphere, with so many young players. The players deserve compliments. It will be a long trip back home, as the players are disappointed.”
Persepolis topped Group C in the ACL and earned a second-successive domestic title under Branko Ivankovic by a nine-point margin.
That the ex-Al Wahda coach declared he needed “Supermen” to defeat a team that contained promising defenders Khalifa Al Hammadi, 19, and Mohammed Al Attas, 20, speaks volumes about unfancied Jazira’s efforts.
He said: “Absolutely, we deserved to win and qualify for the quarter-finals. I am so proud of my players and so happy to be the coach of this group.
“Jalal [Hosseini] is a very important player for us. He is the leader of the team and he is a Superman – but he also had 12 team-mates who were Supermen.”
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