Brazilian Giuliano was on target twice as Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr booked their spot in the AFC Champions League quarter-finals with a 4-3 aggregate win over the UAE’s Al Wahda on Monday.
Another Saudi side, Al Ittihad, also advanced, recording a 6-4 aggregate victory over Iran’s Zobahan after winning the second leg 4-3 thanks to a brace from Romarinho.
In Abu Dhabi, a thrilling clash was on the cards in Al Nassr and Al Wahda’s second leg following their 1-1 draw last week, it didn’t disappoint as Al Nassr bounced back from a goal down to win 3-2 at the Al Nahyan Stadium.
Al Wahda had reached the semi-finals of the tournament in 2007 but since then have failed to win a single match in the knockout phase, while Al Nassr extended their unbeaten run to six games and will clash with either Al Sadd or Al Duhail of Qatar in the quarter-finals.
The hosts enjoyed the upper hand during the first half-hour and the pressure paid off in the 27th minute when Al Nassr captain Omar al-Hawasawi’s attempted clearance sent the ball to Leonardo, who produced an accurate pass for Mohamed al-Menhali.
The defender wasted no time to half-volley the ball into the net to give the hosts the lead and a 2-1 advantage on aggregate.
Al Nassr, however were not disheartened and regrouped to find the equaliser in the 41st minute, with Moroccan Abderrazak Hamdallah netting with a diving header.
– Two minutes, two own goals –
Hamdallah provided the assist when Al Nassr struck again five minutes later, flicking Abdullah al-Khaibari’s pass to Giuliano who slotted his fourth goal of the tournament this year.
Giuliano stretched Al Nassr’s lead on the rebound after goalkeeper Mohamed al-Shamshi had parried a shot from Hamad al-Mansoor in the 62nd minute.
Trailing 4-2 on aggregate, Al Wahda pulled one back with through Argentinian Sebastian Tagliabue in the 79th minute, but Al Nassr hung on to reach the last eight.
In the second match, which kicked off at midnight due to the Muslim festival of Eid Al Adha, Brazilian Romarinho scored twice in the second half to guide Al Ittihad into the quarters at Zobahan’s expense.
Al Ittihad carried a 2-1 advantage into the match but they were given a tough fight by a determined Zobahan at the Grand Hamad Stadium.
Argentinian Emiliano Vecchio put Al Ittihad ahead in first-half stoppage time, but his teammate Luiz Jimenez then scored an own goal in the 53rd minute as he tried to block a free-kick.
But Zobahan returned the favour just one minute later with the second own goal of the match just one minute later, as goalkeeper Mohamed Sadeghi’s embarrassing air-shot allowed the ball to roll into his own net.
That put Al Ittihad 4-2 up on aggregate and when Romarinho added two more in the 64th and 70th minutes, the job looked done — although Hadi Mohammadi and Macauley Chrisantus did cause some jitters with a goal each in the final 20 minutes.