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Australia’s Duke heads Al Taawoun into AFC knockouts

Doha (AFP) – Australian striker Mitchell Duke shrugged off a head injury to put Saudi Arabia’s Al Taawoun into the Asian Champions League knockouts with a 1-0 win over Qatar giants Al Duhail on Thursday.

Duke’s head was heavily bandaged after a clash with Al Duhail’s Almoez Ali minutes earlier, but he recovered to nod the winner from a corner on 86 minutes.

Al Taawoun’s second win over Al Duhail in the coronavirus-hit tournament put them into the round of 16 for the first time as the visitors advanced due to their head-to-head record, with both teams on nine points after six games.

And on a night when all four Group C teams had a chance of reaching the last 16, Iran’s Persepolis thrashed UAE outfit Sharjah 4-0 to join Al Taawoun in the knockouts.

Duke’s goal was the decisive act in a frenetic final 10 minutes at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, a venue for the 2022 World Cup.

The Aussie clashed heads with Ali following a corner but he was back in the action after a few minutes of treatment on the ground.

Al Duhail’s Ismail Mohamed almost found the mark but his chip was cleared off the line by substitute Saad Yaslam with the goalkeeper beaten.

Duke was then on hand to seal Al Taawoun’s last-16 spot ever spot as he planted a firm header past Al Duhail goalkeeper Mohamed al-Bakri from Sultan Mandash’s corner.

Persepolis had an easier ride at the Jassim bin Hamad Stadium as they scored three in the first half to ease past Sharjah.

Shojae Khalilzadeh nodded the Iranians in front in the second minute, and Isa Alekasir and Vahid Amiri also scored with headers just before half-time. Mehdi Qara completed the scoring with Persepolis’s fourth headed goal in second-half injury time.

Earlier, Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr both lost their final group games against already eliminated rivals. 

Al Sadd were shocked 2-1 by Iran’s Sepahan, while Al Nassr went down 1-0 to former champions Al Ain.

Qatar is serving as a hub for the AFC Champions League West Zone after the competition was thrown into chaos by the coronavirus pandemic. East Zone games are yet to resume.

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