RIYADH — Al Nassr of Saudi Arabia secured their spot in the last 16 of the 2023/24 AFC Champions League as Group E winners on Monday, despite playing most of their match against Persepolis in Riyadh with 10 men, ending in a 0-0 draw.

Luis Castro's side, with 13 points from five games, cannot be surpassed at the top by second-placed Persepolis, who are five points behind. The result also led to the elimination of Al Duhail after the Qatari side had eliminated Istiklol earlier in the day.

Despite missing the leading scorer, Anderson Talisca, Al Nassr pressed for an early goal, with Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty claim ruled out following a VAR check.

Aymeric Laporte's weak header and Ronaldo's long-range attempt were saved by Persepolis' goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

The turning point came when Al Nassr's Ali Lajami received a red card in the 17th minute for a reckless challenge.

Persepolis, with a man advantage, increased pressure, but Al Nassr regrouped, and Ronaldo's efforts narrowly missed the target.

Persepolis had a goal disallowed for offside, and Al Nassr's goalkeeper Nawaf Al Aqidi made a crucial save.

Ronaldo, who suffered a neck injury, was substituted in the second half, and injury time attempts by Persepolis failed to break the deadlock as Al Nassr advanced, maintaining their lead in Group E.

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