February 19 – The knock out rounds of the AFC Champions League (West zone) resumed in Qatar this evening with the all Qatari clash between Al Duhail and Al Rayyan going the full distance with Al Duhail winning on penalties.
In the other last 16 match, Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab returned to the AFC Champions League™ quarter-finals for the first time since 2013 after defeating FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan 2-0.
The hero for Al Duhail was goalkeeper Salah Zakaria.
In an evenly matched contest the deadlock was not broken until extra time when substitute Mohammed Muntari gave Al Duhail the lead after 107 minutes. That lead lasted deep into added time of the second extra half, when an Al Rayyan long ball found former AS Roma and Stoke City man Steven Nzonzi who unleashing a half-volley into the net to force penalties.
The two teams matched each other from the penalty spot, scoring all of their first five shots, and before Zakaria turned the tide, saving Al Rayyan’s seventh attempt to send his side through 7-6 on penalties.
Al Shabab’s progress to the next round was much simpler, taking the lead after 12 minutes against FC Nasaf when Hassain Al Qahtani fired a shot at goal that took a wild deflection of an Uzbek defender to leave goalkeeper Abduvohid Nematov stranded. Ernesto Banega scored Al Shabab’s second early in the second half.
After having progressed to the final of the recently completed 2022 Club World Cup in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal will be back in action to defend their 2021 AFC Champions League title tonight and are clear favourites to qualify for the final and a place at the 2023 Club World Cup that will be hosted by Saudi later this year.
Shabab Al Ahli Dubai from the UAE are the first club to stand in their way.
Saudi Arabia have three clubs in the knock-out rounds with Al Faisaly standing out as the only second division club amongst them, they are also the only debutants remaining in the competition.
They face the only remaining Iranian team in the competition, Foolad Khouzestan.
The quarter finals will be played on February 23 and the semi-final (the regional west final) on February 26.
Awaiting the winner of that match is Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds who beat Korea’s Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on penalties in the East zone semi-final back in August last year.
The final will be played over two legs. The first will be in the West Zone on April 26 with the second in Saitama, Japan, on May 6.
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