In a pulsating AFC Champions League Group E encounter, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr played out a tense goalless draw against Persepolis on Monday, at the Al-Awwal Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, despite playing most of the game with 10 men, to move to the round of 16.

The opening minutes witnessed a moment of high drama when Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded a penalty after being brought down inside the box. However, in a remarkable display of sportsmanship, he waved away the decision, suggesting that there had been no contact. The referee, in consultation with VAR, subsequently overturned the penalty.

The point gained ensured Al Nassr will finish on top of Group E despite having one group game left to play and seeing Ali Lajami dismissed in the 17th minute for a reckless tackle on Milad Sarlak, Flashscore reports

Only the group winners are certain to progress to the last 16 but Persepolis could take one of the three best runners-up berths available in the next phase if they defeat Qatar’s Al-Duhail in their final group game on December 5th.

Al-Duhail are already eliminated despite defeating Turkmenistan’s Istiklol 2-0 in Doha thanks to a pair of Michael Olunga headers.

Al-Sadd, meanwhile, pulled themselves back into contention for a place in the last 16 with a 2-0 win over Sharjah from the United Arab Emirates in Group B through goals from Gonzalo Plata and Baghdad Bounedjah.

Plato struck nine minutes into the game after Darwish Mohammed parried Akram Afif’s initial shot while Bounedjah headed in the second from a Pedro Miguel cross from the right on the hour mark.

The win moves Al-Sadd onto seven points from five games and, while it keeps Bruno Pinheiro’s team in third place in the group, the former champions are three points behind new leaders Nasaf with one round remaining.

Nasaf went behind to a goal from Reziq Bani Hani but Mateus, Zafarmurod Abdurakhmatov and Marko Stanojevic struck in the second half to defeat Jordan’s Al-Faisaly 3-1 in Qarshi and go top of the standings.

Sharjah are second on eight points and could still advance with a win over Al-Faisaly on December 4th while Al-Sadd will need to defeat Nasaf to have any chance of progressing.

In Group C, Iran’s Sepahan survived a pair of red cards to defeat Air Force Club from Iraq 1-0 in Tehran and stay two points adrift of leaders Al Ittihad from Saudi Arabia.

Farshad Ahmadzadeh gave Sepahan a fourth-minute lead but Mohammad Hosseinnezhad’s sending-off in the 43rd minute was followed by a red card for Hadi Mohammadi in the 90th minute.

Sepahan clung on during 10 minutes of stoppage time to take the three points and now sit in second behind Al-Ittihad, who defeated Uzbekistan’s AGMK 2-1 thanks to a pair of first-half goals from Abderrazak Hamdallah.