Abu Dhabi: Al Hilal coach sympathises with Ronaldo after red card and Messi chants

In the latest unsavoury incident since his move to Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo was sent off for a cynical foul in the Saudi Super Cup semifinal

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo clashes with Al Hilal's Ali Al Bulayhi before being shown a red card by referee Mohammed Al Hoaish at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. — Reuters
Al Nassr's Cristiano Ronaldo clashes with Al Hilal's Ali Al Bulayhi before being shown a red card by referee Mohammed Al Hoaish at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. — Reuters

Published: Tue 9 Apr 2024, 4:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Apr 2024, 11:28 PM

Al Hilal coach Jorge Jesus sympathised with Al Nassr’s Cristiano Ronaldo after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner completely lost the plot in a night of attritional football in Abu Dhabi.

In the latest unsavoury incident since his groundbreaking move to Saudi Arabia, Ronaldo was sent off for a cynical foul on Al Hilal's Ali Al Bulayhi as Al Nassr slumped to a 2-1 defeat in an ill-tempered Saudi Super Cup semifinal clash.


Thanks to second-half goals from Brazilian striker Malcolm and Saudi's World Cup star Salem Al Dawsari, Al Hilal were in cruise control at a packed Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium where Ronaldo imploded in the 86th minute, leading to a dramatic finish to the match.

In a desperate attempt to do a quick throw-in after the ball went out of play, the former Real Madrid star tussled with Al Bulayhi before elbowing the Al Hilal defender who crashed to the ground, sparking a touchline melee between players from both teams.


The referee showed a straight red card to the 39-year-old Portuguese player who even raised his fist at the official.

Al Hilal fans then rubbed salt into Ronaldo's wounds with Messi chants as he sarcastically applauded the referee before walking off the field.

Despite losing their best player, Al Nassr kept pressing for a goal with just 10 men against their formidable opponents.

Sadio Mane, the former Liverpool striker, did find the back of the net in the 99th minute, but it was too little, too late as Al Hilal survived the late drama to reach the final.

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As Al Hilal players started celebrating the win, Jorge Jesus, the team’s Portuguese coach, offered support to his famous compatriot.

"Ronaldo is one of the most important players in the world and an example for many,” the Al Hilal coach said after the match.

"But he's not used to losing in his career, so it is natural for him to lose his head when he loses, as well as for him to lose emotional and mental focus in defeats.

"It's not easy to play against (Al Hilal's Kalidou) Koulibaly and Al Bulayhi, they are the best central defenders in Saudi football.

“I'm not going to take credit away from Ronaldo, he's still very strong, he always has been and will continue to be the most important player in the world, he's an example and a model."

But Al Nassr coach Luis Castro, who is also from Portugal, was furious with the referee for not using VAR (Video Assistant Referee) as he felt Ronaldo didn’t deserve to be sent off.

"It is difficult to talk about the incident in which Ronaldo received the red card," Castro said.

"We've seen several clips throughout this season where Ronaldo was provoked and, after seeing some footage, Ronaldo didn't do anything that merited sending off. The rival player (Al Bulayhi) pretended (to have been hit).

"There was little contact between Cristiano and the rival defender. He caused a scene and the VAR should have called the referee to review the episode of the sending-off."

Al-Hilal will now be aiming for a fourth Saudi Super Cup title in Thursday's final against Al-Ittihad in Abu Dhabi, which is hosting the event for the first time.

Earlier on Monday, Karim Benzema, Ronaldo's former Real Madrid teammate, scored an early goal for Al-Ittihad who beat Al-Wehda 2-1 in the first semifinal.


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