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HomeAFC Champions LeagueAl Nassr 4 (1) - 3 (3) Al Ain: Cristiano Ronaldo heartbreak!

Al Nassr 4 (1) – 3 (3) Al Ain: Cristiano Ronaldo heartbreak!

Al Ain secured their spot in the AFC Champions League™ 2023/24 semi-finals by defeating Al Nassr 3-1 in a penalty shootout at Al Awwal Park on Monday.

Al Ain managed to edge out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr into the AFC Champions League semi-final. This came after the two teams played to a 4-4 aggregate draw over 90 minutes in Al Ain and 120 minutes in Riyadh.

Soufiane Rahimi, who scored the goal that gave Al Ain a 1-0 lead in the first leg, netted two more goals in the first half. However, Al Nassr staged a comeback in the second half, and a late penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo leveled the game, forcing it into a shootout.

From the start, both teams engaged in end-to-end action, with the hosts pushing forward and the visitors seeking to secure an early goal to strengthen their advantage. Defender Mohammed Al Fatil attempted a header from Alex Telles’ free-kick delivery, but Al Ain goalkeeper Khaled Eisa made the save within six minutes. Meanwhile, Raghid Najjar denied Matias Palacios from close range with a fine save.

The opening goal arrived in the 28th minute when Paraguayan playmaker Kaku delivered a precise through pass to Rahimi. Breaking through the offside trap, Rahimi sprinted towards goal from the left and slotted the ball through Najjar’s legs to open the scoring.

Ronaldo came close to equalizing for Al Nassr when he received a pass from Marcelo Brozovic on the left side. He unleashed a powerful strike towards the near post, but Eisa made an exceptional low save to keep it out.

In the final minute of the first half, Rahimi scored his eighth goal of the AFC Champions League 2023/24 season, putting him joint-top on the scoring charts. Receiving a pass from Palacios on the edge of the area, Rahimi found the bottom corner with a precise shot, extending Al Ain’s aggregate lead to three goals.

Al Nassr vs Al Ain: Penalty shoot-out drama

In the dying moments of added time, Abdulrahman Ghareeb revived Al Nassr’s hopes by capitalizing on a move where Sadio Mane pulled Eisa out of his goal, allowing him to feed the ball to Ghareeb inside the box for a goal, making it 2-1.

After the break, Luis Castro’s team wasted no time, scoring within the first five minutes of the second half. Mane set up Otavio on the right side, and the Portuguese midfielder’s shot deflected off Eisa’s legs into the net, equalizing the score.

At the hour mark, Al Nassr seemed poised to complete their comeback when Eisa spilled Ali Lajami’s shot into Ronaldo’s path. However, Ronaldo missed the open net from just three yards out.

With 16 minutes remaining, the aggregate score was leveled as Alex Telles curled in a free-kick from the right, deceiving the Emirati goalkeeper and finding the back of the net to make it 3-2 to the hosts, sending the game into extra time.

In the early minutes of extra time, Al Nassr was reduced to 10 men after Ayman Yahya’s violent conduct against Bandar Al Ahbabi led to a red card following a VAR review.

Al Ain quickly capitalized as Palacios whipped a cross from the right flank that Najjar couldn’t handle, resulting in a rebound off the crossbar for substitute Sultan Al Shamsi to tap in from point-blank range.

More drama unfolded as Al Nassr was awarded a penalty when Ronaldo was fouled inside the box by Saeed Juma. Ronaldo converted the penalty, scoring his side’s fourth goal and forcing a penalty shootout.

In the shootout, Eisa saved Brozovic’s spot-kick, while Telles hit the woodwork. Rahimi and Kaku scored the first two for Al Ain.

Ronaldo and Al Shamsi then exchanged goals. Otavio missed his shot from the spot, allowing Al Ain to advance to the next round, where they will face either Al Hilal SFC or Al Ittihad in the semi-finals.

Ethan Dempsey
Ethan Dempsey
Ethan is a lifelong football fan. When he is not obsessing over the Premier League games, Ethan likes to read fantasy tomes, watch football documentaries and waste hours upon hours on video games.
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