Brazilian striker Anderson Talisca shone for Al Nassr in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday, striking a hat-trick in their 3-2 victory against Al Duhail in Qatar.
The Saudi Pro League side, who chose to rest in-form captain Ronaldo, rebounded from Philippe Coutinho’s early opener at the Khalifa International Stadium to keep intact their 100 per cent record in this year’s competition. Nassr now have 12 points from four matches to sit top of Group E.
Ronaldo, who scored twice two weeks ago in Riyadh in the Saudi Arabian club’s 4-3 home win against the same opponents, was rested for the corresponding fixture by Nassr manager Luis Castro.
On Tuesday, Duhail went ahead on eight minutes through Coutinho, when the former Liverpool and Barcelona midfielder slid in to finish Michael Olunga’s low cross for his first Asian Champions League goal. The Nassr bench were in uproar, though, believing Olunga had fouled defender Mohammed Al Fatil in the build-up.
However, the visitors completely turned around the tie in a 10-minute spell late in the first half. First, Talisca exchanged passes with Abdulrahman Ghareeb at the edge of the Duhail area and curled a superb right-footed shot low into the bottom corner. Then, he collected a short pass from Sadio Mane and, from almost the exact position as his first, skidded a left-footed drive beyond rooted goalkeeper Salah Zakaria.
Taslica completed his hat-trick on 65 minutes, sweeping home a fine move after another one-two with Ghareeb. The treble lifted Talisca to six goals in his past three Champions League matches.
Duhail did pull a goal back through Coutinho’s 80th-minute penalty following Marcelo Brozovic’s handball, but the home side later had substitute Khaled Mohammed sent off in stoppage time.
Also in Group E, two-time runners-up Persepolis strengthened their case for a place in the last 16 with a 1-1 draw at Istiklol in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe. The Iranians had taken an early lead, but were pegged back by the hosts 16 minutes from time.
Meanwhile, UAE side Al Ain became the first western Asian club to qualify for this year’s knockout stages, courtesy of a 3-2 win at Al Fayha in Riyadh. Togo’s Kojo Labja struck twice for the 2003 champions to take his tally to five goals in this year’s competition as Al Ain top Group A with 12 points from a possible 12.
In the group’s other match, Uzbeks Pakhtakor stay second following a 1-1 draw at Turkmenistan’s Ahal FK.
In the eastern side of the competition, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale moved to the brink of qualification to the last 16 with a 4-2 home win over Thailand’s BG Pathum United. The victory ensured Kawasaki maintained their 100 per cent record at the top of Group I, with Johor Darul Ta’zim and South Korean champions Ulsan Hyundai on six points apiece following the former’s 2-1 victory at home in Malaysia. Ulsan are two-time Asian champions, in 2012 and 2020.
In Group G, Japanese side Yokohama F Marinos are joint-top after their hard-fought 2-1 win at Philippines’ Kaya FC-Iloilo in Manila. Chinese Super League side Shandong Taishan are level with Yokohama on nine points, thanks to a 3-1 home victory against South Korea’s Incheon United in Jinan. Incheon lie third, three points back with two rounds remaining.
The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, runs until mid-December, with the 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams advancing to the knockout rounds starting in February.
The final takes place, across two legs, in May.