Saudi quartet reach final 16
Saudi Arabia will have a strong presence in the next stage of the Asian Champions League.
Last Modified: 06 May 2009 23:20 GMT

Sean Rooney celebrates his goal in Newcastle, Australia [GALLO/GETTY]
Saudi Arabian club Shabab's injury-time goal to beat short-handed Al Gharafa 1-0 and saw the side advance into the knockout stages of the Asian Champions League alongside Iran's Piroozi Athletic.

Also progressing were Al Hilal, meaning all four Saudi clubs went through, and Nagoya Grampus of Japan, leaving only four spots left to be filled in the last 16.

Qatar's Al Gharafa had to beat Shabab to advance from Group B, which was cut to three teams when the United Arab Emirates' winless Sharjah withdrew from the tournament on Monday because it wanted to focus on its home competition.

With all results, goals, and points involving Sharjah voided, and Sharjah still facing more possible sanctions, Shabab's victory left Al Gharafa having completed its campaign without any more chances to advance.

Shabab topped the group with 7 points, the idle Piroozi had 4, and Al Gharafa finished with 3.

Al Gharafa's hopes were dealt a severe blow when Ahmed Fares was sent off late in the first half for a second yellow card.

But it took until the second minute of second-half injury time for Shabab to finally score.

Fisal bin Sultan had been brought down in the box by Al Gharafa's Saad Al Shammri and Nassir Al Shamrani stepped up to convert the penalty.

Al Hilal beat Saba Battery

Al Hilal beat Iranian host Saba Battery 1-0 at Qom in the first match under Abdullatif Husain, who became interim coach when George Leekens was fired.

Even without suspended stars Yasser Al Qahtani and midfielder Mirel Radoi, Al Hilal scored from Tariq Atib's free kick three minutes before halftime.

The third straight loss eliminated Saba Battery, and coach Firouz Karimi lamented a heavy schedule for the poor showing, through he admitted restingtop players for a domestic cup quarterfinal.

Piroozi looks like being Iran's only representative from four starters in the last 16.

Pakhtakor strengthen grip

Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor consolidated first place in Group A with a 2-0 win over UAE's Al Ahli in Tashkent.

Zaynitdin Tadjiyev headed in the host's first goal in the 39th minute, then Aleksander Geynrikh struck the second just before the hour mark.

Pakhtakor had 13 points, Al Hilal 11, Saba Battery 2 and Al Ahli 1.

Nagoya was first to advance from Group E and the group winner with a game to spare by thrashing South Korea's Ulsan Hyundai 4-1.

Yoshizumi Ogawa scored a pair for Nagoya to join J-League rivals Gamba Osaka, Kashima Antlers and Kawasaki Frontale.

Yuki Maki and Davi also scored, while Kim Sin-wook was Ulsan's scorer.

Jets keep dream alive

Newcastle Jets beat last-place Beijing Guoan 2-1 to leave Ulsan and Newcastle to play for the second berth from Group E when they meet in Korea on May 20.
A draw would be good enough to advance Newcastle.

Australia international Ryan Griffiths, a former Newcastle player, scored in the 69th minute for Beijing, which left seven regulars in China, but his replacement striker in Newcastle Sasho Petrovski equalised in the 88th and substitute Sean Rooney won it in the final minute of stoppage time.

Defending champion Gamba Osaka, despite playing with 10 for more than half the match, beat Shandong Luneng 1-0 in China to retain the league's only perfect record with five wins from five matches in Group F.

Leandro evaded three defenders and scored off his left foot in the 58th minute.

Gamba midfielder Yasuhito Endo was sent off for fouling Cui Peng at the end of the first half.

With Gamba assured of winning the group, who joins it in the last 16 will be decided on May 20, with Shandong favoured.

Shandong, with 7 points, visits the winless Sriwijaya in Indonesia, while Seoul, also with 7, visits Gamba.

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