Al-Nassr and Foolad Khouzestan FC played out a 1-1 draw the 2021 AFC Champions League on Tuesday to maintain both teams’ chances of progressing to the knockout stages in Group D.
The result leaves the Saudi and Iranian teams both on five points, with the Al-Nassr leading the table on goal difference at the halfway point of the group stage. Qatar’s Al-Sadd sit in third place, a point behind, after defeating Al-Wehdat of Jordan 3-1 in the other Group D tie on Tuesday.
Both sides started brightly at King Saud University Stadium with eyes firmly on Al-Nassr goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah, who had replaced Brad Jones after the Australian, along four other teammates, tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
Foolad were the first to threaten when Saleh Hardani headed Mehran Mousavi’s sixth-minute cross dangerously, but Abdullah made a fine save.
Al-Nassr came back with a swift counter-attack: Sultan Al-Ghannam raced down the flank and sent in a cross into the area, which slipped through the fingertips of Foolad goalkeeper Mohsen Foroozan but Abderrazak Hamdallah failed to capitalize on the loose ball from close range.
Al-Nassr came close again two minutes before half-time when Nordin Amrabat received Hamdallah’s pass inside the Foolad penalty area, but was crowded out by the Iranian defense.
Foolad substitute Mohammad Mirilichali made an immediate impact within six minutes of being on the pitch when Al-Nassr’s Abdulelah Alamari turned his cross into his own net.
The Riyadh team were not to be denied, however, and their persistence paid off with 20 minutes left when Brazilian Petros Araujo grabbed the equalizer.
Having regained their momentum, Al-Nassr pushed for late winner, with Asiri coming close on 80 minutes, but ultimately they had to settle for a draw.
The two will meet again on Friday at King Saud University Stadium.
In the other Group D match, Al-Sadd SC breathed life into their campaign with a 3-1 win over Jordan debutants Al-Wehdat at King Fahd International Stadium.
Winless in two prior matches, the Qatari champions clicked into gear with a blistering three-goal burst in the opening 26 minutes, with Baghdad Bounedjah, Boualem Khoukhi and Hassan Al-Haydos all getting on the scoresheet before an Ahmad Sameer penalty sparked an Al-Wehdat revival late on.
The result places the team within a point of Al-Nassr and Foolad, but Al-Wehdat’s chances are fading fast.
The two teams meet again in Matchday Four on Friday at King Fahd International Stadium.