Al Shamrani eligible for goal-shy Al Hilal before CAS verdict

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AFC Player of the Year Nasser Al Shamrani has been cleared to play in Al Hilal's next Champions League match before his appeal against an eight-game ban for spitting and head-butting is heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Saudi side will be glad of the striker's return for the April 8 Group C home match against Foolad after failing to find the net for the second consecutive match, recording a goalless draw away to the same opponents on Tuesday.

He was cleared earlier on Tuesday to play against the Iranian champions but Al Hilal's Greek coach Giorgos Donis opted against including him in the matchday squad, with Georgios Samaras instead leading the line.

"In the first half we were the better side and created a couple of opportunities but in the second period Foolad were the better side," Donis said.

"We were lucky not to concede a goal because Foolad is a very good team with a lot of young talented players and I have a lot of respect for them.

"We tried our best in this game and in the first half we showed that we didn't come here for a draw. We took a point and now we are focusing on the return leg. We will try our best to qualify from this group."

Al Hilal, last year's runners-up to Western Sydney Wanderers, are second in the group on four points after three matches, one point ahead of Foolad in the race for the two qualifying spots.

Qatar's Al Sadd top the group on seven points after thrashing Uzbeks Lokomotiv Tashkent 6-2 on Tuesday. Lokomotiv are bottom with one point.

Al Shamrani struck 10 goals last term as Al Hilal reached the final of Asia's premier club tournament but he lost his cool after a 0-0 draw at home to Wanderers in the second leg of the final in Riyadh which gave the Australians a 1-0 aggregate win.

The 31-year-old could be clearly seen spitting in the direction of substitute Matthew Spiranovic and was found guilty, and also head-butting the Australian.

The AFC banned him for eight Champions League games after he took their player of the year award.

Al Shamrani said before the AFC verdict that it was a normal reaction to spit and claimed he was verbally abused by Spiranovic, who received no punishment from the regional body.

The Saudi failed with an appeal to the AFC appeals committee last month and so took his case to CAS.

"CAS will make a final decision on the sanction before Al Hilal's game on Matchday 5 of the competition, April 21 2015," the AFC said on Tuesday.

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