Cristiano Ronaldo managed to persuade the referee to reverse his decision after being awarded a penalty in Al Nassr’s AFC Champions League 0-0 stalemate with Iran’s Persepolis.
The 38-year-old former Manchester United and Real Madrid standout seemed to have been taken down by Soroush Rafiei inside the penalty area, leading to Chinese referee Ma Ning pointing to the spot.
Ronaldo promptly rose to his feet, approached the referee, and vigorously gestured, expressing that there had been no foul.
Having reviewed the play with VAR, the referee proceeded to the pitch-side monitor and overturned his initial call during the Group E showdown in Riyadh.
The Saudi Pro League team had to contest most of the match with 10 players after Ali Lajami received a direct red card for a dangerous challenge in the 17th minute.
They also lost Ronaldo due to a neck injury with 13 minutes remaining, caused by Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand landing on the Portuguese star while claiming a high ball.
However, Iran’s 2018 and 2020 Champions League runners-up were unable to capitalize, allowing Al Nassr to secure their spot in the knockout stages as group winners with that one point.
Ronaldo has limited time to recuperate as Al Nassr prepares to face Al Hilal on Friday in a league clash between the top two teams.
Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian champions, Al Ittihad, are ahead by two points at the summit of Group C following a 2-1 victory over Uzbekistan’s AGMK FC.
Moroccan Abderrazak Hamdallah scored two quick goals in the first half, and Martin Boakye brought one back for the hosts with 12 minutes remaining.
Uzbekistan’s Nasaf Qarshi moved top of Group B with a 3-1 win at home to Jordan’s Al Faisaly, while Qatari side Al Sadd kept their hopes alive by defeating Sharjah 2-0 in the UAE.
The group stage expanded to 40 teams this year and returned to a home-and-away group format for the first time since 2020.
The final two rounds of East Zone matches kick off on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide the other eight teams in the last 16 from Groups F to J.
The quarter-finals are slated for March, the semi-finals in April, and the two-legged final in May.
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Michael Johnson is your soccer guru, providing extensive coverage of soccer. With a global perspective, he delivers match reports, player interviews, and insights into the beautiful game, ensuring readers stay connected to the world of soccer.