Aizawl FC suffered a 3-1 loss to Iranian club Zob Ahan in the AFC Champions League play-off match at the Foolad Shahr stadium in Iran.
Zob Ahan's skipper Mehdi Rajabzadeh opened the scoring and a brace from Morteza Tabrizi late in the game powered the Iranian club past Aizawl for whom the solitary goal was scored by Andre Ionescu.
Paulo Meneses made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home against Mohun Bagan in I-League. Lalram Hmunmawia replaced Lalhriatrenga in defence, while Leonce Dodoz and Yugo Kobayashi made way for Khawlring Lalthathanga and veteran campaigner Shylo Malsawmtluanga in midfield.
The game started at a frenetic pace and the home side Zob Ahan were the first to draw blood in the third minute through a spot-kick when Lalrosanaga fouled Morteza Tabrizi inside the penalty box. Mehdi Rajabzadeh converted from 12 yards with a right footed shot that went into the bottom left corner.
Although the first 15 minutes were dominated by the hosts, Aizawl gradually started to make in-roads through Lalrosanaga and Andrei Ionescu. The Indian side reaped rewards for their repeated attacking forays when the Romanian striker Ionescu scored in the 21st minute. Ionescu's fierce right-footer from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner was powerful enough to beat Zob Ahan goalkeeper Mohammad Mazaheri after he connected well to a cross delivered by Renthlei Laldinliana.
Zob Ahan upped their ante after conceding the equaliser and created a plethora of scoring opportunities in the remaining minutes of the first-half. Milad Fakhreddini could have put his team in front in the 28th minute only if he could have directed his header towards the goal after meeting a cross from the flanks by Mohammad Satari. Goalscorer Rajabzadeh could have doubled his tally in the 31st minute but the Zob Ahan skipper blasted his shot over the goal from close range.
Zob Ahan continued their wastefulness in front of goal as Kiros' header went whiskers off the post just at the stroke of half-time. Aizawl maintained their defensive organisation and weathered the storm well, as both sides headed for the tunnel at 1-1.
The Iranian club continued their onslaught against Aizawl as they continued to create attacking threats right from the second-half whistle. Avilash Paul had to pull out a save within ten minutes of second-half to deny Tabrizi's header that was destined to go in.
Meneses brought in William Lalnunfela around the hour mark to change proceedings in the attacking third but was of no avail.
Zob Ahan looked desperate for the winner as they started pouring more men in Aizawl's half. Paul was once again called into action in the 78th minute to stop Kiros' header from bulging into the net.
But then it was Morteza Tabrizi's header from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner which put Zob Ahan in front in the 83rd minute.
Meneses' men were put under more misery when Tabrizi got his name on the scoresheet for the second time after he headed in from close range to the bottom left corner after latching onto a cross from Seyed Hosseni.
With the defeat, Aizawl's AFC Champions League dream is over but they will get a direct entry into Group E of AFC Cup. They are drawn alongside New Radiant S.C. from the Maldives, Abahani Limited Dhaka from Bangladesh and the winner of the play-off in Central Asia.
Aizawl will get back to domestic action on February 3 when they take on Chennai City FC in I-League away from home.