Iran's interior ministry vows to back Tehran reformers
Soccer: Iranians aim for historic Asian treble
April 28, REUTERS, Tehran - Iran champions Esteghlal, aiming to become
the first side to win the Asian Club Championship for a third time, will
be at full strength for their semi-final against China's Dalian Wanda today.
The home side, who won the championship in 1970 and 1990, have been
boosted by the return of international striker Saeed Ali Mousavi. A knee
injury kept him out of the quarter-final group stages in the United Arab
Emirates in February.
The other semi-final will see 1997 Japanese champions Jubilo Iwata take
on Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates. The final will be played in Teheran
Mousavi, who will leave Iran to join Germany's Bayer Leverkusen after
the competition ends, is likely to be joined in attack by fellow international
Dalian reached last year's final, where they lost on penalties to South
Korean side Pohang Steelers, but their hopes of going one step further
this year have suffered a severe blow with the suspension of top striker
Hao was banned for one year by the Asian Football Confederation for
spitting at a linesman during the Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand in December.
Since losing the 29-year-old, Dalian have struggled in front of goal,
amassing just five points in their six domestic league games.
Dalian may also be unable to field their Iranian international midfielder
Reza Shahroudi after it emerged the club had yet to pay the World Cup veteran's
former club, Pirouzi, a US$200,000 transfer fee.
That issue should be resolved by today, when a crowd of 100,000 is expected
to fill the Azadi Stadium, with Pirouzi giving Dalian a pay-to-play ultimatum