'Happy' Cristiano Ronaldo scores first AFC Champions League goal in Al Nassr win

Portuguese scored in the 66th minute as the Saudi club had to come from behind to claim a 3-1 win over Tajikistan's Istiklol

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in the AFC Champions League as Al Nassr came from a goal down to see off Tajikistan's Istiklol 3-1 in Riyadh.

The Portuguese forward, 38, the all-time top scorer in European Champions League history with 140 goals, opened his account in Asia's equivalent with a clever clipped finish in the 66th minute to level the scores after Senin Sebai scored on the break to put Istiklol in front with a minute left in the first half.

Anderson Talisca headed Al Nassr in front six minutes later and the Brazilian put the result beyond doubt with 13 minutes remaining when he stroked a low shot into the corner.

“Good game from everyone on the team! Happy to have scored my 1st #ACL Champions League goal! We keep wining! [sic],” Ronaldo said in a social media post.

The victory was Al Nassr's second in a row in the group stage of the competition and moves Luis Castro's side three points clear at the top of Group E.

Iran's Persepolis are in second place following a 1-0 win over Al Duhail of Qatar, with Omid Alishah scoring in the 63rd minute to earn the 2018 and 2020 runners-up their first victory of the campaign.

Al Ittihad's meeting with Iran's Sepahan in Group C was called off as players from the Saudi club refused to leave their dressing room due to a statue of assassinated Iranian general Qassem Suleimani being placed at the entrance to the pitch.

The Asian Football Confederation said the game, which was due to be played in Isfahan's Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium, had been “cancelled due to unanticipated and unforeseen circumstances”.

“The club administrators found a bust of Qassem Suleimani in the walkway to the pitch,” an Al Ittihad official told AFP, saying the bust's presence “is totally irrelevant”.

“We asked them to remove it before going to the pregame warm-up and they didn't remove it. The team went back to the lockers.”

The official said the two sides then met AFC representatives to determine if the match would be rescheduled.

Suleimani commanded the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and remains a revered figure in Iran after his 2020 assassination in a US drone strike at Baghdad airport.

Sepahan said the match was cancelled by the referee after Al Ittihad players left the stadium Iran's state news outlet Irna reported.

Another Saudi Pro League club, Al Hilal, are due to play in the Iranian capital Tehran on Tuesday against Nassaji Mazandaran. At the time of publication, it was unclear whether the match will go ahead.

Also in Group C, Air Force Club beat AGMK 2-1 after Ali Jasim scored his third goal in two Asian Champions League games to give the Iraqis a second-minute lead over the Uzbekistan team with Sanzhar Tursunov's own goal doubling the visitors' lead.

Siavash Haghnazari pulled one back for AGMK with nine minutes to go but Air Force Club held on to win and reach four points, one ahead of Al Ittihad.

In Group B, Uzbekistan's Nasaf made it two wins from two after Azizbek Amonov struck twice in a 3-1 win over Al Sadd of Qatar.

Updated: October 03, 2023, 7:54 AM