• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ronaldo heartbroken as Al Nassr loss Saudi King’s Cup final

Cristiano Ronaldo Al-Nassr-2

Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo was left in tears after Al Nassr were defeated on penalties in the Saudi King’s Cup final by Al Hilal, who completed a domestic double.

Al Hilal, unbeaten in the Saudi Pro League (SPL) and finishing 14 points clear of runners-up Al Nassr, won in a shootout 5-4 after the final ended 1-1 following extra time in Jeddah.

Ronaldo, who joined Al Nassr last year, slumped to the ground as Al Hilal celebrated their victory. The 39-year-old slowly walked off the pitch and sat in the dugout with tears streaming down his face.

The defeat means Ronaldo, who set a new Saudi Pro League goal record this season by scoring 35 goals, is yet to win a major trophy since joining Al Nassr in January 2023. His only silverware is the Arab Club Champions Cup, which he won last August.

In addition to domestic setbacks, Ronaldo and Al Nassr were defeated in the Asian Champions League quarter-finals by eventual winners Al Ain.

The King’s Cup final was a turbulent match featuring two goals and three red cards. Aleksandar Mitrovic headed Al Hilal into the lead after seven minutes.

Al Nassr’s situation worsened early in the second half when goalkeeper David Ospina, formerly of Arsenal and Napoli, was sent off for handling the ball outside the area.

Despite the numerical advantage, Al Hilal couldn’t extend their lead and were reduced to 10 men after Ali Al Bulaihi was red-carded for an apparent headbutt on Sami Al Najei.

Seconds later, Ayman Yahya headed Al Nassr level. Al Hilal then had another defender, Kalidou Koulibaly, sent off in the 91st minute after receiving a second yellow card.

With no goals in extra time, the final went to a penalty shootout. Ruben Neves missed Al Hilal’s first attempt, as did former Manchester United defender Alex Telles for Al Nassr.

Ronaldo, who earlier hit the post with a spectacular overhead kick, converted his penalty but could only watch as Yassine Bounou, a hero of Morocco’s march to the semifinals of the 2022 World Cup, saved twice – first from Ali Al Hassan and then from Al Nemer.

These crucial saves secured Al Hilal’s 11th Saudi King’s Cup triumph, leaving Ronaldo and his team to wait for another season.

This season, Al Hilal, despite star signing Neymar being injured since October, put together a record 34-match winning streak in all competitions. Al Nassr, who finished second in the league behind Al Hilal and lost to them in the Super Cup, missed out again despite Ronaldo’s prolific form.

Ronaldo’s contract with Al Nassr, reportedly worth €400 million over two-and-a-half years, runs out at the end of next season.