Former Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic struck on his Asian Champions League debut as Qatar giants Al Duhail beat Iran’s Persepolis 2-0 in their opening Group C match of the continent’s premier competition on Tuesday.
Ex-Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Juventus attacker Mandzukic, who was part of the Croatia side who finished runners-up at the 2018 World Cup, headed in a fifth-minute cross from Almoez Ali to give the hosts the lead at the Abdulla bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha.
Mandzukic got plenty of help from the Persepolis defenders though, as they were busy protesting an alleged foul even as Ali chipped the ball from just outside the penalty area.
Despite the early setback, the visitors, who boast a fan following of more than 40 million in Iran, failed to get their defence right as the home side consolidated the lead in the 13th minute.
North Korea forward Han Kwang-song took advantage of another Persepolis mistake by pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box before passing the ball to Brazilian Edmilson who scored with a low shot.
The Tehran side barely made an impact in the first half, but ex-Celtic striker Anthony Stokes tested the Al Duhail defence on his club debut a couple of times after the break.
In Group D, Qatar’s Al Sadd and Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr figured in an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh.
Morocco forward Abderazzaq Hamdallah put the hosts ahead with a seventh minute strike from inside the box after a pass from Yahya al-Shehri as Xavi’s Al Sadd defence was found wanting.
The home side however only managed to hold on to the advantage for two minutes as Baghdad Bounedjah’s crisp shot off a pass from Pedro Miguel helped Al Sadd draw level.
The second half also started on a similar note with both teams scoring inside the first 10 minutes, although it was Xavi’s side who took the lead this time, scoring in the 48th minute.
Miguel, who was born in Cape Verde but now is a naturalised Qatari, once again provided the assist, intercepting an attempted pass by al-Shehri before relaying the ball to Hassan al-Haydos, who made no mistake with a coolly taken shot past Australia goalkeeper Brad Jones.
The match was on level terms again five minutes later with Abdulrahman al-Obeid taking advantage of a loose clearance and finding the net with a powerful drive.