By Michael Church
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Head coach Yahya Golmohammadi vowed not to allow Persepolis’ second Asian Champions League final defeat in three campaigns to derail the club from moving forward after the Iranians saw South Korea’s Ulsan Hyundai claim the continental crown on Saturday.
The 2-1 loss in front of a socially-distanced crowd of around 8,000 fans at the Al Janoub Stadium in Doha came two years after a defeat at the hands of Japan’s Kashima Antlers to leave the Iranian side still seeking an elusive first-ever Asian Champions League title.
Persepolis’ hopes were hampered by the loss through suspension of key striker Issa Alekasir and midfielders Ehsan Pahlavan and Vahid Amiri, and Golmohammadi admitted his squad’s lack of depth made the task against a talented Ulsan side more challenging.
"Having replacement players is important; today, we did not have many options to come off the bench. The players we missed today like Amiri and Pahlevan had an impact and we could not replace them," he said.
"It is very difficult. There will be difficult days ahead of us, but this is football. It would be unprofessional if this result becomes an obstacle in our way.
"We have to start our mental and psychological recovery from tomorrow and be ready to go again for the 2021 Asian Champions League and the Iran Pro League."
Despite the absence of vital players, it was Persepolis who took the lead when young striker Mehdi Abdi struck from just inside the penalty area.
But a pair of penalties swung the game in Ulsan’s favour, with Junior Negrao netting his side’s first goal on the rebound after Hamed Lak had saved his spot-kick in first half injury time before the Brazilian hit the decisive second 10 minutes into the second half.
"We lost the match the moment we lost our concentration," said Golmohammadi of the penalties that handed Ulsan victory.
"We made sure we did not concede goals in any way, but we gave them two easy chances to score.
"I am really sad and I want to apologise to all the fans of Persepolis for our shortcomings. The players fought until the end, but we could not win."
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Michael Perry)