Double delight for Saudi soccer fans as Al-Nassr, Al-Ittihad shine

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Al-Nassr forward Abderrazak Hamdallah celebrates after scoring a goal during the AFC Champions league round of 16 second leg football match against Al Wahda at the Al-Nahyan stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday. — AFP

ABU DHABI — 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.

In the UAE capital, 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 equalizer in the 41st minute, with Abderrazak Hamdallah netting with a diving header.

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.

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 the second match, which kicked off at midnight due to the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, 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.

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 favor 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. — AFP


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