Red card helps Ronaldo's Al Nassr beat Persepolis in Asian Champions League opener
Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr defeats 10-man Persepolis in the Asian Champions League with a 2-0 win, despite playing in an empty stadium.
In a thrilling match at Tehran's Azadi Stadium, Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr emerged victorious against 10-man Persepolis in their Asian Champions League campaign opener. The Saudi Pro League side capitalized on their numerical advantage to secure a 2-0 win over the Iranians.
The turning point came in the 52nd minute when Persepolis' Milad Sarlak received his second yellow card for stepping on Ronaldo's foot during a midfield battle. Just ten minutes later, the former Real Madrid striker played a crucial role in unlocking the resilient hosts. He released Marcelo Brozovic into the penalty area, and Abdulrahman Ghareeb capitalized on the Croatian's cutback to score the opening goal through a deflected strike.
Nassr extended their lead in the 72nd minute when Mohammed Qassem unleashed a powerful shot from a tight angle on the left, finding the back of Alireza Beiranvand's net. This goal sealed their victory and showcased their dominance throughout the game.
Reflecting on the match, Nassr forward Sadio Mane expressed his satisfaction with the team's performance. Despite a challenging first half, both teams performed well, but Nassr's impressive display in the second half, including creating several scoring opportunities and converting two goals, justified their deserving win.
The match took place in an empty Azadi Stadium due to a ban imposed on Persepolis by the Asian Football Confederation two years ago. This unfortunate circumstance deprived thousands of fans who have been avidly following Ronaldo since his arrival in Tehran from attending the game.
With this win, Nassr takes the lead in their group, two points ahead of Al Duhail, coached by Hernan Crespo, who could only manage a goalless draw against Tajikistan's FC Istiklol in Dushanbe.
In Group A, Al Ain's Togo international Kodjo Laba played a pivotal role in his team's 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor. Laba scored two goals and assisted in the third, showcasing his exceptional skills. In the 11th minute, Laba expertly met Bandar Al Ahbabi's cross at the near post, leaving goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov with little chance to save. He was also involved in the second goal, capitalizing on a midfield mix-up and setting up Khalid Al Baloushi, who swiftly fired into the corner.
Laba sealed the result in the 65th minute when he received a pass from Park Yong-woo and skillfully placed his shot into the top corner. Al Ain now shares three points with Turkmenistan's FC Ahal, who secured a surprising 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia's Al Fayha thanks to Elman Tagayew's long-range strike in the second half.