Ronaldo’s Bold Gesture: Urges Referee to Overturn Penalty Decision in AFC Champions League

The 38-year-old former Manchester United and Real Madrid star seemed to have been brought down by Soroush Rafiei in the box during a Group E clash in Riyadh. Chinese referee
Ma Ning awarded a penalty initially but took his decision back after consulting VAR upon Ronaldo’s insistence that there had been no foul.

Al Nassr, competing against the Saudi Pro League side, played most of the match with 10 men following Ali Lajami’s red card for a harsh challenge in the 17th minute. Despite Ronaldo leaving the game due to a neck injury caused by a clash with Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, the Iranian team failed to capitalize. This draw was enough for Al Nassr to secure their spot in the knockout stages as group winners.

Ronaldo’s recovery time is limited, as Al Nassr is up for a top-of-the-table league clash against Al Hilal on Friday.

In Group C,The Saudi Arabian champions, Al Ittihad had a 2-1 win against Uzbekistan’s AGMK FC. Abderrazak Hamdallah’s two goals in the first half were almost canceled out by Martin Boakye’s late goal for the hosts. Under new manager Marcelo Gallardo, Al Ittihad needs to avoid defeat against second-placed Sepahan in the final round to qualify as group winners.

Sepahan managed a 1-0 victory against Iraq’s Air Force Club despite having two players out. Farshad Ahmadzadeh scored the only goal, and despite being reduced to nine men in the remaining stages, Sepahan held on to acquire the three points.

Meanwhile, Nasaf Qarshi claimed the top spot in Group B with a 3-1 victory against Jordan’s Al Faisaly. Al Sadd’s 2-0 win against Sharjah in the UAE keeps raises hopes as Nasaf tops the group with Al Sadd on seven points and Sharjah trails on eight. The group stage, involving 40 teams, has had a home-and-away formatfor the first time since 2020.

The West Zone will decide next week, determining the 16 teams advancing to the knockout stages in February. The final rounds for Groups F to J in the East Zone are placed for Tuesday and Wednesday, deciding the remaining eight teams for the last 16.

Quarter-finals are set for March. Then, the semi-finals in April and to the home-and-away final in May.

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