Al Nassr FC secures spot in knockout stages of AFC Champions League

Al Sadd SC's Rodrigo Tabata celebrates Friday with Santi Cazorla after scoring against Al Ain FC in the knockout stages of AFC Champions League. Courtesy of SPORTFIVE

Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr FC on Friday secured a place in the knockout stages of AFC Champions League after a 2-0 win against Sepahan SC at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Qatar's Al Sadd SC are now favourites to accompany them from Group D after a 4-0 thrashing of Al Ain FC.

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Abdullah Madu opened the scoring for Al Nassr in the 32nd minute after teed up by Abderrazak Hamdallah inside the box.

Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr FC on Friday secured a place in the knockout stages of AFC Champions League after a 2-0 win against Sepahan SC at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Qatar's Al Sadd SC are now favourites to accompany them from Group D after a 4-0 thrashing of Al Ain FC.

Abdullah Madu opened the scoring for Al Nassr in the 32nd minute after teed up by Abderrazak Hamdallah inside the box.

Hamdallah later made it 2-0 before the break.

A third win in four matches keeps the Saudi Professional League side top of the group standings with 10 points -- two behind Qatar Stars League giants Al Sadd.

After an even opening period, Al Sadd midfielder Mohammed Al Bayati lifted a ball over the Al Ain backline for Baghdad Bounedjah to chase down and score past UAE international goalkeeper Khalid Eisa. Bounedjah turned provider for his side's second laying the pass which was tapped in by Akram Afif 56 minutes in.

Al Sadd went up 3-0 in the 70th minute when Santi Cazorla's well-weighted cross from the left wing was fired home by Boundejah for his second of the night.

Al Sadd face off against Al Nassr on Monday. A win can guarantee Al Sadd a spot in the Round of 16. Sepahan square up against Al Ain.

The Group C results Friday have shaken things up in the pool with all four teams, now separated by only three points from top to bottom, still in contention for the two knockout places on offer as we head into the final two matchdays.

Persepolis FC, who were rock-bottom when the coronavirus stopped play, are now topping the group with seven points after back-to-back wins over Al Taawoun FC since the restart. Meanwhile, Sharjah FC's 4-2 victory over Al Duhail SC, their first in the competition since 2004, takes their tally to four points -- only two behind Al Taawoun and Al Duhail.

Iranian champions Persepolis capitalised on a penalty, conceded by Al Taawoun's Brazilian defender Iago Santos and converted by Bashar Rasan early in the second half, to register another 1-0 win over the Saudi side who have seen their fortunes turn since arriving in Qatar with a perfect win record.

The early kick-off between Sharjah and Al Duhail was off to an entertaining start after Abdullah Al-Ahrak's strike from 25 yards out beat custodian Adel Al-Hosani in the Sharjah goal and gave the Qatari champions a 1-0 lead 12 minutes from the start.

Al Duhail's celebrations were cut short though, as their goalkeeper Khalifa Ababacar failed to hold onto a shot from Khaled Ba Wazir that was hit straight at him and let it slip through his fingers just six minutes later.

The Emiratis, who had gathered just one point from their first three matches and needed a win to keep their hopes of a knockout berth alive, sensed an opportunity when Duhail went down to 10 men after former Juventus man Mehdi Benatia received his marching order for an elbow on Igor Coronado in the 59th minute.

Sharjah went straight into the lead from the resultant free kick as Majid Surour scored on the rebound after Coronado had rattled the woodwork from the dead ball. Al Duhail, though, were not willing to give up without a fight and equalised through a stunning half-volley from captain Almoez Ali in the 70th minute.

Coronado was handed the opportunity to score with a penalty for the second match running, after a foul from Mohammed Musa, and the Brazilian playmaker made no mistake from the spot to make it 3-2 to Sharjah before the outcome was put beyond doubt by Caio Fernandes in the injury time.

Persepolis face Al Duhail while Al Taawoun take on Sharjah on the next matchday in Group C.