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Ronaldo and Al-Nassr get Asian campaign off to perfect start

TEHRAN: Al-Nassr got their Asian Champions League campaign off to a perfect start on Tuesday with a valuable 2-0 win in Tehran against Persepolis.

Abdulrahman Ghareeb gave the Saudi Arabians a deserved win with a goal just after the hour and the contest was virtually ended with a fine debut strike from Mohammed Qassem.

By that time, the Iranians were a man down but this was a solid performance from Al-Nassr who were on top from the start at the famous but empty Azadi Stadium.

It may have been quiet – due to a punishment handed out by the Asian Football Confederation after Indian team Goa complained about a social media post that appeared after a 2021 Champions League clash –but  there had been plenty of noise before the game. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of fans, were at the airport and Al-Nassr’s hotel, trying to get a glimpse of Cristiano Ronaldo as they chanted his name. The five-time Ballon D’or winner responded with a little wave and later, he was pictured receiving the gift of a Persian carpet. 

Persepolis were desperate not to be so generous and worked hard from the start to cut the supply to Ronaldo. They also had to reckon with Sadio Mane and the former Bayern Munich and Liverpool star came within centimetres of getting on the end of a delightful curling cross from Sultan Al-Ghannam on the right. 

Ronaldo, the leading goalscorer in the Saudi Pro League with seven so far this season, should have given the visitors the lead after 20 minutes. Al-Ghannam headed the ball to the Portuguese star on the edge of the six yard-box. His trademark leap was in full effect but the header was much too close to Alireza Beiranvand who made a comfortable save. 

Al-Nassr were on top after getting to grips with a far from