AFC Champions League: Duke's late strike sends Al Taawoun into last 16

Mitchell Duke scored the lone goal in the 86th-minute against Al Duhail to send Al Taawoun into the Asian Champions League round of 16.

Duke Mitchell played on with a knock to the head and scored a late headed goal for Al Taawoun.   -  Getty Images

Mitchell Duke scored the winner four minutes from time to send Saudi Arabia's Al Taawoun into the last 16 of the Asian Champions League at the expense of Qatari champion Al Duhail in Doha on Thursday.

The Australian striker, his head swathed in bandages after an earlier knock, found the net with a powerful header from an 86th-minute corner to give his club a 1-0 win that sent them from the bottom of Group C into second place.

Iran's Persepolis, runner up in 2018, earlier sewed up top spot in the group with a 4-0 win over Sharjah on the back of headed goals from Shojae Khalilzadeh, Issa Alekasir and Vahid Amiri in the first half and a late fourth from Mehdi Abdi Qara.

Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr and Qatar's Al Sadd were already assured of passage into the knockout stages and both lost their final Group D matches on Wednesday.

Al Nassr topped the group despite its 1-0 loss to 2003 champion Al Ain, while twice champion Al Sadd went down 2-1 to Iran's Sepahan at its home Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

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Al Sadd, the only Qatari side left in the competition, will play Persepolis in the last 16 on Sunday at an empty Education City Stadium.

Al Nassr will take on Al Taawoun in its first knockout match earlier on Sunday at the same arena, a new venue built for the 2022 World Cup.

Saudi Arabia has three teams in the last 16 despite Asian champion Al Hilal kicked out of the competition on Wednesday when it was only able to muster 11 players for its final group match after a rash of COVID-19 cases.

Emirati club Al Wahda was also kicked out before the resumption of the Western half of the Asian Champions League in the Doha hub after an outbreak of COVID-19 in its squad.

The resumption of the East Asian half of the competition in Malaysia has been delayed from October to mid-November with the final planned for Doha on December 19.

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