Minerva Punjab were defeated 4-0 by Iran’s Saipa FC in an AFC Champions League qualifying match at the Shahr-e Qods Stadium in Tehran.
With this, the defending I-League champions crashed out of the AFC Champions League and will now enter the group stages of the AFC Cup. Arash Rezavand bagged a brace for Sapia while a goal each from Arman Ramezani and Samuel Sarfo buried Minerva’s hopes of making the next round.
The Punjabi team were in trouble early as Thoiba Singh fouled Mohammadreza Soleiman inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot. Rezavand scored from the spot to give Minerva an eighth-minute lead.
Saipa would soon double their lead as Soleiman was the dangerman again, dribbling past three defenders. Ramezani would capitalise on the rebound from Soleiman’s blocked shot to give his side a two-goal cushion.
Minerva did have two good chances in the second half, falling to Juan Quero and Moinuddin, but failed to make them count. Omid Khaledi’s cross found Sarfo, who headed it in to seal the tie for the hosts before Rezavand bagged his second and Saipa’s fourth.
Chennaiyin FC are the other Indian team in Asian competition and will have to negotiate the play-offs to join Minerva in the AFC Cup group stages.