AFC – TEHRAN, Esteghlal coach Amir Ghalenoei admitted that his players were below par on Wednesday as they eked out a 1-0 win over Buriram United in the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarter-finals at the Azadi Stadium.
Khosro Heydari opened the scoring for the Iranian champions with a fortunate goal from the right flank after less than two minutes. But after a promising start, the hosts gave a stuttering performance in front of their fans and they were fortunate not to concede an equaliser to the Thai FA Cup holders.
While pleased with the win, which gives his side a precious advantage to take into the return match in Thailand next month, Ghalanoei felt that the performance of his players did not meet his expectations.
“We wanted to devise more attacks but we failed to do that due to poor play-making,” said the former Iran national coach.
“I wasn’t very content with (striker) Arash Borhani’s display but (goalkeeper) Mehdi Rahmati made some good saves.
“We weren’t stressed out, but I have to confess we weren’t good enough in the second period.”
While the performance of winger Mohammed Ghazi was criticised by the Iranian media, Ghalanoei (pictured) felt other players were at fault including captain Farhad Majidi who squandered a gilt-edge opportunity to increase Esteghlal’s lead in the early stages of the game.
“It was a good start to our campaign towards the final goal, but Farhad Majidi could have doubled the lead for us, had he been more careful in finishing,” lamented Ghalanoei.
“Maybe the mistake I made in the second half was to reduce our midfielders from four to three. I don’t know for what reason you are only complaining about Mohammad Ghazi because in my view the whole team didn’t play well at all.
“Farhad Majidi is a player who can score from tight angles and he’s one of those players who can be the saviour of a team when the game is tight. But like some of our other players he didn’t play a good game either.”