AFC - It was honours shared as Foolad Khouzestan FC and Al Nassr played to a 1-1 draw in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
The draw saw Islamic Republic of Iran's Foolad and Al Nassr move up to five points, with the Saudis ahead on goal difference. Qatar's Al Sadd climbed to four points after defeating Al Wehdat of Jordan 3-1 in the other Group D tie on Tuesday.
Both sides opened the match at the King Saud University Stadium brightly but all eyes were on Al Nassr goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah, who replaced Brad Jones after the Australian tested positive for COVID-19.
Foolad, having started the tournament impressively, had their first sight on goal when Saleh Hardani connected to Mehran Mousavi’s pass into the box with a header but Abdullah was up to the task as he made a fine save in the sixth minute.
Foolad, however, were reminded of Al Nassr’s ability to counter attack in the 22nd minute when Sultan Al Ghannam raced down the flank and sent in a cross into the area, which slipped through the fingertips of goalkeeper Mohsen Foroozan but Abderrazak Hamdallah failed to capitalise on the loose ball from close range.
The hosts came close just a minute later when Abdulfattah Asiri beat the offside trap, but there were no teammates in sight to receive his pass, allowing Foolad defender Saleh Hardani to clear the ball.
Al Nassr should have taken the lead two minutes before half-time when Nordin Amrabat collected Hamdallah’s cross in the box, but the Foolad defence quickly closed in on the midfielder before he could lay the finishing blow.
Foolad’s Mohammad Mirilichali had come on in the second half and the substitute made an impact within six minutes of being on the pitch when his cross - which was intended for Mousavi - saw Al Nassr’s Abdulelah Alamari slot in an own goal to break the deadlock.
The Saudi giants were, however, unfazed and continued pressing and their persistence was rewarded in the 69th minute when a string of passes led to Brazilian Petros Araujo finishing the move.
Buoyed by their equaliser, Al Nassr pressed forward in search of a winner with Asiri coming closest in the 80th minute, but Foolad held strong as the two sides settled for a draw.
The two will meet again on Friday, with Foolad aiming to do better if they are to overtake Al Nassr in the standings.