TEHRAN — Al-Nassr football team, featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, marked its return to the AFC Champions League after a hiatus by securing a crucial 2-0 victory against Persepolis, the Iranian hosts.

The match, held at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Tuesday, was part of the opening round of Group 5 fixtures. Notably, this game was played without spectators in adherence to a disciplinary penalty.

Abdulrahman Ghareeb found the net for Al-Nassr in the 62nd minute, while Mohammed Qasim added a second goal in the 72nd minute. The Iranian team, Persepolis, faced a setback when their player, Milad Sarlak, received a red card and was sent off in the 51st minute.

Following this victory, Al-Nassr leads the group with three points, while Qatar's Al-Duhail is in second place with one point, ahead of Tajikistan's Istiklol, also with one point. Persepolis currently sits at the bottom of the group with no points.

The game saw Al-Nassr launch the first attack, with a dangerous cross within the penalty area by Abdullah Al-Ghanam. Senegalese striker Sadio Mané came close to scoring, but the ball ended up outside the net just ten minutes into the match.

Legendary Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo missed a golden opportunity when he met Al-Ghanam's cross with a header, but it was collected by Persepolis goalkeeper Beiranvand.

The Uzbek referee Ilgiz Tantashev disallowed a goal by Al-Nassr's Brazilian player Otávio in the 35th minute, citing offside. Despite several chances, the first half ended in a goalless draw.

As the second half began, the Iranian team started to shed their caution and took their first shot on target against Nawaf Al-Aqidi, the Al-Nassr goalkeeper.

The match took a significant turn when the referee handed a red card to Persepolis player Milad Sarlak in the 51st minute for receiving his second yellow card, reducing the home team to ten players.

Abdulrahman Ghareeb then broke the deadlock, putting Al-Nassr in the lead. He combined brilliantly with Ronaldo and Brozovic in the 62nd minute. Mohammed Qasim, who returned to the starting lineup not long ago, doubled the lead in the 72nd minute after penetrating the penalty area.

The referee consulted the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to confirm his decision after Persepolis claimed a penalty. However, the referee allowed play to continue, and the match concluded with Al-Nassr securing all three points.

Al-Nassr will host Tajikistan's Istiklol at Al-Awwal Park on Oct. 2 for their next match in the second round of fixtures.

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