Tuesday’s Asian Champions League opener saw Al-Nassr, featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, defeat Persepolis 2-0 in Tehran’s empty Azadi Stadium thanks to their numerical advantage over the 10-man Iranians.
Amid a skirmish in the middle of the field, Milad Sarlak of the hosts was sent off seven minutes into the second half for stepping on Cristiano Ronaldo’s foot.
The hosts were finally broken down after releasing Marcelo Brozovic into the penalty area ten minutes later. Abdulrahman Ghareeb scored the game’s first goal on a deflected shot from the Croatian’s cutback.
In the 72nd minute of the Group E match, Mohammed Qassem increased Al-Nassr’s advantage by slamming a shot from a tight angle on the left into Alireza Beiranvand’s net to secure the victory.
Sadio Mane, a forward for Al-Nassr, remarked, “It was a wonderful game, even though the first half was a bit difficult for both teams.
We generated some chances and performed well in the second half, scoring two goals that earned us the victory.
A ban put on Persepolis by the Asian Football Confederation two years ago was enforced, preventing thousands of fans following Ronaldo since his arrival in Tehran from attending. Therefore, the match was played in an empty Azadi Stadium.
Al-Nassr’s victory puts them in first place in their group, two points ahead of Hernan Crespo’s Al-Duhail, who were held to a 0-0 stalemate by FC Istiklol of Tajikistan in Dushanbe.
Togo international Kodjo Laba helped Al Ain defeat Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor 3-0 in Group A by scoring twice and assisting his team’s third goal.
By the eleventh minute, Al Ain had taken the lead thanks to a brilliant touch by Laba at the near post on Bandar Al Ahbabi’s cross that gave goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov no chance.
The 31-year-old was also involved in the second goal, gaining control after a mix-up in the middle of the field and feeding Khalid Al Baloushi, who first-timed a precise shot into the corner.
Sixty-five minutes have passed. When Laba grabbed Park Yong-woo’s pass and steadied himself to spear his shot into the top corner, he put the outcome beyond question.
Al Ain and FC Ahal of Turkmenistan are tied on three points after FC Ahal’s unexpected 1-0 victory over Al Fayha of Saudi Arabia was made possible by Elman Tagayew’s long-range goal in the second half.