Rivaldo and Uzbeks shine in Asia

Brazilian footballing legend Rivaldo recalled feats of yesteryear on Wednesday as he kept his nerve to score a penalty and give his Uzbek side Bunyodkor a stunning 1-0 win away against Iranian powerhouses Persepolis.

Their victory sees them progress to the AFC Champions League quarter-finals on a night when one of Rivaldo's former clubs Barcelona captured European football's equivalent trophy with an impressive 2-0 victory over holders Manchester United in Rome.

Rivaldo, world and European footballer of the year in 1999, made light of his 36 years to command the match and converted the penalty four minutes from the break after he went down under a challenge from two Iranian defenders.

The exit of the home team left no Iranian teams standing in the competition and prompted their Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada to confirm his departure from the club. "I wrote a letter giving notice of my resignation two days ago," said Vingada. "If you're looking for someone to blame (for the elimination) then blame me," he added graciously.

It was a red letter day for Uzbek clubs as Bunyodkor - last year's semi-finalists - were joined by domestic rivals Pakhtakor who also enjoyed a notable away success with a 2-1 victory over Saudi side Ettifaq. The Saudi club's prolific Ghanaian striker Prince Tagoe opened the scoring for the hosts but after that even though they dominated they suffered for some wayward finishing by Tagoe and Pakhtakor stormed back with two late goals to secure their place in the last eight.

Indeed they left it almost to the final whistle as a stunning injury-time free-kick by substitute Alexander Geynrikh secured their place in the last eight. The victors coach Victor Djailov conceded that things could only get harder from now on. "The quarter-finals will be harder because there will be strong teams from Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as the quartet from the eastern zone," he said.

Saudi derby
Al Ittihad also came from behind to win an all Saudi clash as they beat Al Shabab 2-1 and they too had to rely on an injury-time winner - this time Moroccan substitute Hicham Aboucherouane scoring three minutes into time added on. Al Ittihad coach Gabriel Calderon claimed that he had never feared his side would lose.

"Even after Al Shabab scored the first goal, I had a feeling that we would win the game," said Calderon, whose side avenged a humiliating 4-0 defeat by the same opponents in the King's Cup which placed a question mark over their Argentine handler's position.

Calderon sought to clear the air over his future. "We had a good season in terms of performance and results and our final match in the King's Cup was the worst game that we played during the season. Now Al Ittihad can look to my achievements with the team and decide if they want me to continue."

It will not be the same for his compatriot and coach of Al Shabab, as Enzo Tressero announced he would be stepping down. "I am leaving the team. It was my last match and I have made my decision," said Tressero. "I think I have presented Al Shabab with a good young team. We enjoyed two good seasons and won cups and competitions."

The results completed a bad round for Saudi Arabian sides as Qatari outfit Umm-Salal prevailed 4-3 on penalties away at Al Hilal on Tuesday, with the Saudi club to have no-nonsense Belgian Eric Gerets in charge next season after finishing up at Marseille. He will certainly expect them to improve on their dismal recent record in the competition which has seen them reach the last eight on only one occasion in the last four campaigns.