Saudi trio to the fore
© AFP

Saudi clubs enjoyed a memorable matchday in the 2012 AFC Champions League Round of 16, with all three of their teams making it through to the quarter-finals. After last year's disappointing campaign which had seen only Al Ittihad survive the one-off knockout phase, Saudi Arabia returned to the fore on the continental stage with three impressive displays.

The first to shine were Al Ahli, who overcame hosts Al Jazira on penalties on Tuesday. The next day saw Al Ittihad and Al Hilal both run riot, claiming landslide victories over Persepolis and Bani Yas respectively to progress in fashion. The remaining qualifying spot belonged to Iran champions Sepahan who prevailed over compatriots Esteghlal. Join FIFA.com as we look back in detail at these showdowns, ahead of next week's action on the east half of the continent.

The match
Al Ittihad 3-0 Persepolis
Many eyes across the continent were on the encounter between Al Ittihad and Persepolis, both of whom are among the most successful clubs of Saudi Arabia and Iran. What had been expected to be an evenly contested match, however, turned out to be a one-sided triumph in favour of the Saudi hosts, who won comfortably at home to keep their bid for a third Champions League title well on track.

Coach Raul Caneda's home side went in front on 35 minutes through Naif Hazazi, who opened the scoring with a penalty upon his return from suspension. Cheered on by the home supporters, Abdelghani Faouzi capitalised on a defensive error to double the lead in first-half stoppage-time, before Abdoh Autef added icing to the cake with three minutes remaining. The win extended Al Ittihad's unbeaten run under Caneda to 15 matches in all competitions, including six victories on the continent.

The surprise
Al Jazira 3-3 Al Ahli (2-4 penalties)
The hitherto impressive campaign of Al Jazira - the first team to progress beyond the group stage - was brought to an abrupt end following a penalty shoot-out defeat against Al Ahli at home in a fiercely-contested match. Aside from celebrating being the first Saudi side to reach the last eight, Al Ahli became only the third team to have gone through the Round of 16 with a penalty-shootout victory since the introduction of the one-off knockout phase in 2009.

In a sense, it was a battle between two Brazilian hotshots in Ricardo Oliveira and Victor Simoes, both of whom were tasked with goal-scoring for their respective sides. Entering the encounter as tournament top-scorer with ten goals, Oliveira continued his prolific form with the hosts as he cancelled out Marcelo Camacho’s 22nd-minute opener for Al Ahli just past half-hour. With the two sides locked at 2-2 after regular time, the former Valencia and AC Milan striker went on to score in extra time to leave his side on the edge of qualification. However, Simoes then stole the show, drawing his team level with a dramatic equaliser on 118 minutes, before scoring the match-winning penalty in the shoot-out to send his side through.

The other attractions
Bruno Cesar Correa and Mohsen Bengar hit first-half goals as Sepahan outmuscled Esteghlal 2-0 in an all-Iranian affair to progress. Ferocious contenders on the domestic front over recent years, Tuesday's match saw the two sides bring their rivalry to the Asian scene for the first time. Having edged Esteghlal to win their third consecutive league title this month, Sepahan again demonstrated their dominance. Correa latched onto Xhevahir Sukaj's headed pass to open the scoring after eight minutes, before Bengar sealed the contest with a header on 34 minutes.

Saudi giants Al Hilal showed former coach Gabriel Calderon and his Bani Yas side no mercy as they crushed the United Arab Emirates debutants 7-1 at home. The Riyadh side's Korea Republic striker Yoo Byung-Soo proved the hero, scoring four times as Ivan Hasek's side produced the matchday's biggest win. Yoo opened the scoring midway through the opening half, before Swedish midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson soon doubled the advantage. After making it 3-0 shortly after the interval, Yoo completed his hat-trick on 53 minutes. Francisco Yeste pulled one back for the visitors, but Wilhelmsson soon restored their four-goal cushion. Yoo went on to net his fourth just past the hour, before setting Mohammad Salem up to complete the rout four minutes from time.

The player
Despite Al Jazira's elimination, Oliveira is well-placed to contend for the tournament’s Golden Boot award, with his brace lifting the Brazilian to 12 goals and setting a new AFC Champions League goalscoring record.

The stat
3 - Home advantage proved a key factor in these one-off contests, with three of the four home teams running out victors.

What they said
"Today we played good tactical football and followed all of our plans for the game. We proved that we are the best team in Iran and we also showed that we can play good football. I am confident that we can get this team to an even higher level," Sepahan coach Zlatko Krancjar

AFC Champions League, Round of 16 results
22 May
Al Jazira 3-3 Al Ahli (2-4 penalties)
Sepahan 2-0 Esteghlal

23 May
Al Ittihad 3-0 Persepolis
Al Hilal 7-1 Bani Yas