Al-Nassr became the first Saudi team to qualify for the AFC Champions League Round of 16, leapfrogging Qatar’s Al-Sadd SC to win Group D with a Matchday Six 2-1 win at King Saud University Stadium on Thursday night.
Goals from Abderrazak Hamdallah and Abdulelah Al-Amri either side of half-time put the Al-Nassr within sight of the knockout stage, before Santi Cazorla’s goal from the penalty spot with seven minutes left gave Xavi Hernandez’s team a glimmer of hope and set up a nervy end to the match for the Riyadh club.
Mano Menezes’s team can now look forward to September’s Round of 16. Al-Sadd, who looked to be in the driving seat going into the match, must wait to see if their final tally of 10 points will be good enough for them to qualify as one of the best three runners-up.
Al-Nassr started the brighter of the two teams and could have taken the lead on six minutes, Hamdallah missing the target with a header after reaching Sultan Al Ghannam’s cross.
The Moroccan forward’s impact on the match was just starting.
On 33 minutes he put the hosts ahead, helped by an error by Al-Sadd goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham, whose botched clearance went directly into the path of the 2020 ACL Golden Boot winner.
Hamdallah made no mistake, driving home his fourth goal of the tournament from 15 yards.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Hamdallah squandered a chance to double the lead after Noureddine Amrabat had create the opportunity after a fine run.
After the break, Al-Sadd started to get into the match, but somewhat against the run of play, Al-Nassr managed to grab their second goal, with Al-Amri rising high to head Amrabat’s free-kick past Barsham.
Al-Sadd set up an exciting finale after Ali Al-Lajami brought down Yusuf Abdurisag just inside in the penalty area, with Cazorla converting the spot-kick. The final few minutes were frantic – and Xavi was sent off – but Al-Nassr held on to claim the win they needed to advance.