Round of 16 - 1st Leg: Al Nassr (KSA) 1-1 Al Wahda FSCC (UAE)
Riyadh: Leonardo's 53rd minute strike helped Al Wahda FSCC of the United Arab Emirates hold Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia to a 1-1 draw in their 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie on Monday.
It was Brazilian Leonardo's ninth goal of the campaign and leaves Al Wahda well placed ahead of the return leg on August 12. Abderrazak Hamdallah had given Al Nassr the lead in the 17th minute.
The winners will go on to face either Al Duhail or Al Sadd, both of Qatar, in the quarter-finals.
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Al Wahda looked to catch their hosts by surprise, going on the offensive straight from kick-off. Within 60 seconds Leonardo saw his cross punched away by the goalkeeper then fluffed his lines from 10 yards out, miscuing Mohammed Al Menhali’s cross.
Al Nassr regrouped and slowly grew into the match. Sultan Al Ghannam tried his luck from distance 15 minutes in, but his strike was well wide.
New Saudi Arabia coach Herve Renard, watching from the stands, would have been impressed with the contribution of Al Ghannam who, two minutes later, whipped a cross for Hamdallah whose flying header left goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi rooted to the spot to announce the first goal of the night.
As the first half drew to a close, the match suddenly erupted into life. Leonardo received the ball 40 yards away from goal, danced his way past three Al Nassr defenders and beat the goalkeeper with a left-footed finish, but the ball was cleared by defender Omar Hawsawi.
Hawsawi’s clearance was hoofed on by Hamad Al Mansoor into Al Wahda’s half and Hamdallah outmuscled his marker to latch onto the ball and dribble past Rim Chang-woo but watched as his effort from close range was saved by Al Shamsi to deny Al Nassr a second goal before the break.
The hosts started the second half quickly and had their first sight of goal within a minute through Al Mansoor who received a long pass down the right flank, advanced into the box and fired from a narrow angle into the arms of Al Shamsi.
Eight minutes into the second half, Al Wahda captain Ismael Matar got on the end of a loose ball at the centre circle and supplied a first-time through ball for Leonardo. The 2019 AFC Champions League top scorer broke free, rounded goalkeeper Brad Jones and slotted home into an empty net to bring the Emirati side level.
Seconds before the final whistle, the visitors came within inches of grabbing a winner, but Sebastian Tagliabue hit the post from close range after being set-up by Leonardo. The Argentine struck on the turn but watched in agony as his shot hit the base of the upright.
Al Wahda extended their unbeaten run in the competition to six games, their best-ever AFC Champions League string.
They welcome Al Nassr to Al Nahyan Stadium next week with a crucial away goal advantage to their name.
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