Giants Al Sadd fall to shock AFC Champions League group-stage exit for second season running

Despite the added firepower of Ghana international Andre Ayew, Qatari giants Al Sadd fell to a second consecutive group-stage exit in the AFC Champions League after Saturday's 3-1 loss to Uzbekistan's Nasaf Qarshi. Asian Football Confederation

Uzbekistan's Nasaf Qarshi kept alive its hopes of progressing to the AFC Champions League Round of 16 on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Qatari giants Al Sadd -- a result that also condemned the latter to a shock group-stage exit for a second consecutive season.

The victory, which came courtesy of Akmal Mozgovoy's brace, moved Ruzykul Berdyev's team to within a point of Group E leaders Al Faisaly after the Saudi side were held to a 1-1 draw by Jordan's Al Wehdat.

- Where do things stand at halfway mark of ACL 2022 East Zone?
- Al Shabab, Al Duhail through to AFC Champions League last-16
- Evergreen Damjanovic "feels like a kid" leading Kitchee ACL quest

Meanwhile, Al Sadd's exit will come as a huge shock once again for a side that have not suffered defeat in the Qatar Stars League for the past two seasons but are struggling to bring their domestic dominance onto the continental stage under both former boss Xavi and current manager Javi Gracia.

The winners of each of the five groups in west Asia advance to the knockout rounds, where they will be joined by the three teams with the best runners-up records.

Defending champions Al Hilal salvaged their unbeaten record in the ongoing edition when late goals from Muteb Al-Mufarrij and Salem Al-Dawsari earned the Saudi Arabians a 2-2 draw with Sharjah in Riyadh.

Ramon Diaz's side had already guaranteed themselves a place in the next round with wins in each of their opening four games, but first-half goals from Ousmane Camara and Majid Rashid left Al Hilal staring at their first defeat of the campaign.

The draw keeps Al Hilal in pole position in Group A with one round of matches remaining, although the four-time champions are already guaranteed a place in the next round.

Al Hilal are already assured of at least one of the best runners-up spots and have qualified alongside Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab and Qatar's Al Duhail.

Saturday's results also mean Group C leaders Foolad from Iran are now certain to claim at least one of the runners-up spots despite having one round of matches left to play.

Al Hilal's unbeaten record came under threat when Camara glanced his fifth-minute header home to give Sharjah the lead, and Rashid doubled the advantage in stoppage time when he drove his shot into the bottom corner.

The champions fought back, however, and Al Mufarrij halved the deficit 12 minutes from time with a close-range finish before Al Dawsari calmly stroked his 96th-minute spotkick past Adel Al Hossani to level the score.

The draw ended Sharjah's hopes of a place in the next round as Cosmin Olaroiu's side are now five points adrift of second-placed Al Rayyan from Qatar, who defeated Istiklol from Tajikistan 1-0 through Yohan Boli's last-minute goal.

Al Hilal leads Group A with 13 points and is three clear of Al Rayyan, who it will face in their final group match on Wednesday.