Persepolis scores late to knock out Al Sadd in the AFC Champions League

Issa Alekasir's late header was the difference for Persepolis against Al Sadd. Power Sport Images

A late header from Issa Alekasir was enough for Iran Pro League champions Persepolis FC to edge Xavi Hernandez's Al Sadd SC 1-0 in a Round of 16 clash of AFC Champions League 2020 at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan on Sunday.

Persepolis, who lost the 2018 final against Kashima Antlers, will join Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor Tashkent and Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli Saudi Club and Al Nassr FC in the West Zone quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Al Sadd began the knockout tie with Santi Cazorla testing goalkeeper Hamed Lak early, but Esteghlal had the better of the chances as Issa Alekasir hit the woodwork, not once but twice, in the 62nd and 69th minutes.

Extra time was looming in the goalless game until Alekasir produced the winner two minutes from time. The 30-year-old Iranian veteran rose the highest to head in a corner delivered by substitute Omid Alishah securing the third quarterfinal appearance in four seasons for the Red Army.

In an all-Saudi Round of 16 tie later in the day, it was Al Nassr who got the better of Al Taawoun FC 1-0 and made it two teams from Saudi Arabia through to the last eight of the continental competition.

Al Nassr were favourites going into the game and they enjoyed the lion share of possession and chances. But the breakthrough had to wait until the 75th minute when unmarked Moroccan forward Abderrazak Hamdallah fired in off a cross from Sultan Al-Ghannam to score in an incredible ninth AFC Champions League match in a row.

Saudi Professional League giants Al Ahli needed penalty shootouts to overcome UAE Pro League outfit Shabab Al Ahli Club as the two sides could not be separated after extra time in the first knockout stage tie at the Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah on Saturday.

The Saudis were dominant from the start found the net when Salman Al Muwashar fired in on the rebound after Omar Al Soma's header had cannoned off the woodwork, but the goal was ruled out for offside. They were left stunned when the Emiratis went ahead in the 28th minute as Uzbek midfielder Aziz Ganiev drilled a shot into the goal.

But Ganiev turned villain in the second half when he brought down Al Muwashar inside the box giving away the penalty from which Al Soma netted the equaliser. It remained 1-1 at Al Wakrah until the tie-breaker was enforced in which the Saudi side won 4-3.

In other Round of 16 clash on Saturday, Pakhtakor, despite the absence of their head coach Shota Arveladze due to COVID-19, entered the quarterfinals of the continental competition for the first time since 2009 by recording a comeback victory over Esteghlal FC.

Esteghlal were the first to strike in the do-or-die clash and it was Mehdi Ghayedi who was once again making things happen for the Iran Pro League side winning the free kick from which Ali Karimi curled in the opening goal in the 32nd minute.

But, the Uzbek champions drew even before the interval as Dragan Ceran headed in a cross from right-back Khodjiakbar Alidjanov in the 43rd minute. Pakhtakor claimed the lead two minutes into the second half through a stunning strike from Erin Deriyok that proved to be the winner.

A draw to be held in Doha on Monday will decide who will play who in the quarterfinals of AFC Champions League West Zone. The matches are to take place at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.