SINGAPORE (AFP) - Brazilian legend Rivaldo rolled back the years as he kept his nerve to score a penalty and put Uzbek side Bunyodkor into the AFC Champions League quarter-finals.
Their stunning 1-0 win away to Iranian powerhouse Piroozi late Wednesday came on a night when one of Rivaldo's former clubs Barcelona captured Europe's equivalent trophy with a 2-0 victory over holders Manchester United in Rome.
Rivaldo, world and European footballer of the year in 1999, made light of his 36 years to command the match and converted the penalty four minutes from the break after he went down under a challenge from two Iranian defenders.
Piroozi's exit left no Iranian teams standing in the competition and prompted their Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada to confirm his departure.
"This was my last match with Piroozi," said Vingada.
"I wrote a letter giving notice of my resignation two days ago. If you're looking for someone to blame (for the elimination) then blame me."
It was a red letter day for Uzbek clubs as Bunyodkor -- last year's semi-finalists -- were joined by domestic rivals Pakhtakor who also enjoyed a notable away success with a 2-1 victory over Saudi side Ettifaq.
Ettifaq's prolific Ghanaian striker Prince Tagoe opened the scoring but while they dominated they suffered from wayward finishing and Pakhtakor stormed back with two late goals to secure their place in the last eight.
Indeed, they left it almost to the final whistle with a stoppage time freekick by substitute Alexander Geynrikh keeping them in the competition.
Their coach Victor Djailov conceded that things would only get harder from now on.
"The quarter-finals will be harder because there will be strong teams from Qatar and Saudi Arabia as well as the quartet from the eastern zone," he said.
Al Ittihad also came from behind to win an all-Saudi clash as they beat Al Shabab 2-1. They too had to rely on a late winner -- this time Moroccan substitute Hicham Aboucherouane scoring three minutes into time added on.
Al Ittihad coach Gabriel Calderon claimed he had never feared his side would lose.
"Even after Al Shabab scored the first goal, I had a feeling that we would win the game," said the Argentine, whose side avenged a humiliating 4-0 defeat by the same opponents in the King's Cup which placed a question mark his position.
Calderon sought to clear the air over his future.
"We had a good season in terms of performance and results and our final match in the King's Cup was the worst game that we played during the season.
"Now Al-Ittihad can look to my achievements with the team and decide if they want me to continue."
It will not be the same for his compatriot and coach of Al Shabab, as Enzo Tressero announced he would be stepping down.
"I am leaving the team. It was my last match and I have made my decision," said Tressero.
"I think I have presented Al Shabab with a good young team. We enjoyed two good seasons and won cups and competitions."
A bad night for Saudi Arabian sides was capped as Qatari outfit Umm-Salal prevailed 4-3 on penalties away at Al Hilal, who will have no-nonsense Belgian Eric Gerets in charge next season as he is leaving Marseille to join them.
The eastern zone round of 16 matches, which feature defending champions Gamba Osaka of Japan, are played on June 24.
|A. Vahedi Nikbakht||88'|
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