Saudi Arabian duo Al Shabab and Al Ahli became the first teams to book their places in the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League with wins tonight. Sebastian Tagliabue's late breakaway goal secured a hard-fought 1-0 triumph for Al Shabab at Tractorsazi Tabriz to ensure their progress from Group A.
Al Ahli quickly followed their domestic rivals into the last 16 as teenager Mustafa Al Bassas' double inspired a 4-1 win at home to Sepahan in the late game. Al Bassas grabbed the first two goals for last season's runners-up before a 67th-minute Bruno Cesar penalty made it 3-0.
Radomir Dalovic grabbed a consolation for the Iranians but Bader Al Khames added a fourth in stoppage time. Al Ahli have a perfect record in Group C and are set to be joined in the next round by Al Gharafa after the Qataris cast pointless Al Nasr aside 3-1.
Lawrence Quaye and Nene gave Al Gharafa control and, although Takayuki Morimoto replied, Fahd Al Shammari added a third 10 minutes from the end. Defeat means Walter Zenga's side became the first team to see their qualification hopes ended.
El Jaish lead the race for the second qualification spot in Group A after they drew 1-1 at Al Jazira. Sultan Barghash opened the scoring for home side midway through the first half but Brazilian striker Adriano equalised before the break.