Cristiano Ronaldo helped Al Nassr to a victory over Iranian club Persepolis and made history in this process
Cristiano Ronaldo made a winning start in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday night, assisting Al Nassr to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Persepolis in Iran.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who also has five UEFA Champions League championships to his name, led Saudi Arabia to a three-point lead in Group E.
After the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed a one-game ban for Persepolis supporters dating back to 2021, the match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium was played without fans.
That clearly aided Nassr, who scored both goals in the second half against the two-time runner-up, one on an own goal by Danial Esmaeilifar and the other on a beautiful shot by defender Mohammed Qassem.
It was the first time a Saudi club had played in Iran since 2016, following the AFC’s announcement of a “ground-breaking agreement” between the two countries’ federations earlier this month.
Since Iran and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations seven years ago, Asian Champions League matches have been played on neutral sites.
Ronaldo, 38, was prominently involved throughout, coming within inches of scoring twice in the first half.
His first chance, a thunderous close-range header, was saved by Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, leaving Ronaldo frustratedly hitting the post.
Nassr’s hopes were boosted early in the second half when Persepolis midfielder Milad Sarlak was sent a second yellow card, this time for seeming to stamp on Ronaldo’s boot.
Replays revealed that the touch was inadvertent.
Ronaldo was instrumental in Nassr’s opening goal shortly after the hour mark, encouraging the move that resulted in Abdulrahman Ghareeb’s blocked shot cannoning off Persepolis full-back Esmaeilifar and settling in the net.
After ten minutes, Nassr left-back Mohammed Qassem broke down the left and hammered a shot high beyond Beiranvand to double the visitors’ lead and seal the points.