Ronaldo gets first Asian Champions League goal
TEHRAN, Iran (AP):
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League in Al-Nassr's 3-1 win over Istiklol yesterday to shift attention back to football after an earlier match between Sepahan of Iran and Saudi Arabia's Al-Ittihad was controversially cancelled.
The Saudis did not take to the field at Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium in Isfahan because of busts of General Qassem Soleimani -- who commanded Iran's elite Quds Force before he was killed in a United States of America (USA) drone strike in neighbouring Iraq in January 2020 -- and other political banners, Saudi Arabia's Al Ekhbariya TV reported.
Soleimani was seen as playing a key role in arming, training and leading armed groups across the region, including fighters from the Houthi rebel group in Yemen. Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen since 2015.
Three busts of Soleimani were placed on the sideline at the Iranian stadium. After around a 30-minute delay, the Saudi league champions, whose stars include N'Golo Kante and Fabinho, left the stadium where an estimated 60,000 fans were waiting.
The Asian Football Confederation said the Group C match was cancelled "due to unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances," without elaborating. The game has been initially classified as postponed.
Saudi Arabia's Al-Hilal, four-time winners of the Asian continental title, was scheduled to play Nassaji Mazandaran in Tehran today.
Al-Nassr took control against Tajikistan's Istiklol in the second half at Riyadh. Ronaldo, who joined them in December, equalised with a delicate chip midway through the second half. Senin Sebai had put Istiklol ahead just before the break.
Ronaldo scored for the seventh successive game, and then two goals in quick succession from Brazilian forward Anderson Talisca gave Al-Nassr the win.
Al-Nassr, still searching for a first continental championship, are top of Group E with six points from two games, three above Persepolis, who beat Al-Duhail of Qatar 1-0.
Elsewhere, Nasaf Qarshi of Uzbekistan maintained their perfect start in Group B with a 3-1 win over Qatar's Al-Sadd, while Al-Faisaly lost 1-0 at Sharjah.
Only the 10 group winners and the six best-performing runners-up will progress to the next stage.