Monday’s 0-0 tie between Al Nassr and Persepolis, an Iranian team, at home secured Cristiano Ronaldo’s team’s spot in the Asian Champions League knockout stages.
Prior to the match in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian team had won all four of their Group E games, therefore they just needed a point at Al Awwal Park to move on to the round of 16.
Even though Nassr used ten men for the whole of the game, they still managed to win.
Their celebrations were also dampened somewhat by Ronaldo’s substitution with 13 minutes remaining following an earlier collision with Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
The contest sparked into life on four minutes, when Nassr had a claim for a penalty denied after Ronaldo looked to have been tripped in the visitors’ area. However, the Portugal forward admitted to the referee that it was not foul, with the official upholding the decision after consulting VAR.
Shortly after, Ali Lajami’s straight red card on minute 17 for dragging his studs down Milad Sarlak’s shin made things worse for the hosts.
The second half saw a goal disallowed for Persepolis, the two-time runners-up, and Ronaldo spin swiftly inside the Persepolis penalty area but miss with his low attempt.
The 38-year-old captain of Nassr had seemed to suffer a neck injury early in the second half when Beiranvand collided with him while attempting to recover a high ball.
Ronaldo was taken from the field at minute 77, looking to be uncomfortable.
On Friday, Nassr and Al Hilal will square off in a top-of-the-table Saudi Pro League match.
In the group’s other match, Al Duhail got their first win this campaign with a 2-0 victory at home to Tajikistan side Istiklol.
In Group C, Saudi Arabian champions Al Ittihad bounced back from defeat in round four with a 2-1 win at Uzbekistan’s AGMK FC.
Moroccan Abderrazzaq Hamdallah scored twice in four first-half minutes before Martin Baokye pulled one back for the hosts with 12 minutes remaining.
The win means two-time winners Ittihad, who had new manager Marcelo Gallardo making his Asian Champions League debut, remain top of the standings heading into next week’s tie at home with second-placed Sepahan.
The Iranians defeated Iraqi opponents Air Force Club 1-0 on Monday at the Azadi Stadium – despite having two men sent off – to move two points behind Ittihad.
Meanwhile, there remains all to play for in Group B after Uzbekistan’s Nasaf Qarshi moved top with a 3-1 win at home to Jordan’s Al Faisaly, and Qatari side Al Sadd defeated Sharjah 2-0 in the UAE.
Nasaf sit at the summit on 10 points ahead of their final match next week against Al Sadd, who are third on seven points. Sharjah lie second on eight points.
The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, runs until mid-December, with the 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams advancing to the knockout rounds starting in February.
The final takes place, across two legs, in May.