DUSHANBE, Tajikistan — Without Cristiano Ronaldo, Al-Nassr was held to a 1-1 draw at Istiklol of Tajikistan on Tuesday but still topped its group in the Asian Champions League as all four Saudi Arabian teams advanced to the round of 16.
Big-spending Al-Nassr, which has never won the continental competition, had already secured a place in the knockout stage. Ronaldo was rested as coach Luis Castro fielded a starting lineup comprised of domestic players.
Alisher Dzhalilov gave Istiklol the lead in Dushanbe after 32 minutes. Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored after the break to earn the Saudi Arabians a point.
On Monday, Al-Nassr’s Riyadh rival Al-Hilal advanced as one of the 10 group winners — the six teams in second with the most points also progress — after a 2-1 win over Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran. The four-time champions earned 16 points from six games despite the absence of injured star Neymar.
Al-Ittihad was also without striker Karim Benzema and midfielder N’Golo Kante but still finished first in its group, defeating Sepahan of Iran 2-1 in Jeddah.
Newly appointed Al-Ittihad coach Marcelo Gallardo is looking forward to welcoming his stars back to action.
“Kante is a great and influential player but, unfortunately, I have not yet been able to work with him in training and we hope that he will participate in the coming days,” the Argentine coach said. “Benzema is also a great and influential player and I hope to have him back as well.”
Al-Fahya ensured a perfect four from four for Saudi Arabia, finishing second in its group after defeating Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan 4-1.
Also advancing was Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates, Nasaf and Navbahor of Uzbekistan as well as Iran’s Sepahan.
The tournament is divided into two geographic zones until the final. The eastern zone will complete its group stage next week.