Monday, April 22, 2024

Ronaldo’s return boosts Al-Nassr’s Asian Champions League title hopes


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Seoul, March 3: Cristiano Ronaldo returns from suspension on Monday to try and save Al-Nassr’s season and guide the Saudi Arabian team closer to a first ever Asian Champions League title.
Last Thursday, the 39 year-old was banned for one game after making an alleged offensive gesture during a Saudi Arabian league match four days earlier.
At the end of a 3-2 win over Al-Shabab, video footage appeared to show Ronaldo cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, in a gesture that seemed to be aimed at Al-Shabab fans.
The punishment meant that Ronaldo watched frustrated from the sidelines during Thursday’s domestic league game as Al-Nassr took the lead four times but ended with a 4-4 draw at home to bottom team Al-Hazm. The result leaves the club in second in the Saudi Pro League and nine points behind leader Al-Hilal.
“Ronaldo strengthens the team and ensures that the opponent respects you more but his absence had nothing to do with the result,” said Al-Nassr coach Luis Castro.
“The fact is that we are conceding too many goals and the problem is not organizational but due to individual mistakes.”
“The league result will not affect our game in the Asian Champions League as we will be fully focused on that.”
The continental competition offers Al-Nassr the best chance of silverware this season and the team makes the short trip to take on Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates, winner in 2003, in the first leg of the quarterfinal.
On Tuesday, there is an all-Saudi Arabia clash as Al-Hilal, with a record four continental titles, takes on Al-Ittihad, champion in 2004 and 2005.
Neymar is still missing for Al-Hilal, currently top of the Saudi Arabia league, while Al-Ittihad is waiting to see if Karim Benzema recovers from a muscle injury. (AP)


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