Tashkent: Lokomotiv confirmed their status as Group A winners in the 2016 AFC Champions League on Tuesday as the Uzbek side shared a 0-0 draw with Al Nasr of the United Arab Emirates that ensures both sides advance to the knockout phase of the continental club championship for the first time.
The draw means Lokomotiv move on to 10 points from their six group games and keeps them one point clear of Al Nasr, who sealed second place in the group despite Al Ittihad’s 2-0 win over Sepahan in the group’s other game in Muscat.
Victory for the Saudi side – champions in 2004 and 2005 – also took Victor Piturca’s team onto nine points at the end of the group stage, but Al Nasr claim second place in the group and a berth in the Round of 16 thanks to their better head-to-head record against the former champions.
A 2-1 victory for Al Nasr on Matchday Three was followed by a 0-0 draw on Matchday Four and that win was enough to give the Emirati side the confidence that a draw in Tashkent would book their ticket for the next round.
With a point enough for both teams to advance, it was no surprise the opening 45 minutes at the Bunyodkor Stadium lacked urgency. Ikromjon Alibaev twice tried his luck from long range, seeing goalkeeper Ahmad Shambih parry the first effort to safety before the second flew wide of the right post.
In between those attempts, two-time AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov volleyed an inviting ball across the Al Nasr six-yard box, but no one within the Lokomotiv strike force was able to react quickly enough and the ball skidded through to safety.
The game sprung into life in the early exchanges of the second half, however, with Jires Kembo-Ekoko smashing his attempt from the edge of the penalty area over the Lokomotiv goal while at the other end Sanjar Shaakhmedov pulled the trigger on a shot from 20 yards out that forced Shambih into action.
But with the inevitability of the outcome increasing, neither side showed any urgency in the latter stages as the two teams settled for the draw they both needed to go through.
Lokomotiv, who have qualified for the knockout round of the AFC Champions League for the first time, will face Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal in the Round of 16, while Al Nasr will also make their debut appearance at the same stage of the competition when they take on Group B winners Tractorsazi Tabriz.