Minerva suffer 0-4 drubbing at hands of Iran's Saipa, end AFC Champions League hopes
Tehran, Feb 12 (PTI) Minerva Punjab FC suffered an embarrassing 0-4 defeat at the hands on Iranian side Saipa FC in a preliminary round match to end their AFC Champions League campaign at the first hurdle here on Tuesday.
Minerva conceded the lead in the eighth minute with Arash Rezavand scoring from the penalty spot before Arman Ramezani struck in the 24th minute for the home side who led 2-0 at half time.
Saipa scored two more goals in the second half with Samuel Sarfo finding the Minerva net in the 73rd while Arash Rezavand scored his second goal of the match in the 81st minute to complete the route at the Shahr-e Qods Stadium near here.
Minerva, who got the chance to play in this preliminary stage of Asia's elite club competition as 2017-18 I-League winners, were making their maiden foray at the continental stage but they were completely outplayed by the Iranian side.
Minerva have been struggling the whole of this domestic season with just three wins from 16 matches in the ongoing I-League. They are ninth in the 11-team I-League standings.
Saipa, on the other hand, were playing the continent's premier club competition for the second time. Their previous appearance came in 2008, when they reached the quarter-finals where they lost over two legs to FC Bunyodkor of Uzbekistan.
Saipa, coached by Iranian legend Ali Daei, have also been struggling in their domestic top competition, the Persian Gulf Pro League, but on Tuesday they were the far better side as they dominated the match throughout.
Despite the loss, Minerva will still remain in the continental stage this season as they still have an automatic berth in the AFC Cup, the second tier continental club competition. They will play the group stage of the AFC Cup from Group D, starting in April