Real Madrid and Barcelona’s hopes of a so-called European Super League are dealt fresh blow

Al-Hilal beat Al-Nassr to win Copa del Rey on penalties as Ronaldo cries

Cristiano Ronaldo’s season ended in tears on Friday as Al-Hilal completed the league and cup double by beating Al-Nassr 5-4 on penalties after two hours of play in a tumultuous King’s Cup final at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. finished 1-1.

Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was the hero, saving two spot kicks at the end of a fierce battle between rivals from Riyadh, which had a little bit of everything. Aleksander Mitrovic scored an early goal that looked to have set the league champions on course for their 11th triumph in Saudi Arabia’s premier cup competition. Then came Ayman Yahya’s late, late equalizer to send the game into extra time – but not before Argentine referee Dario Herrera sent off three players.

Al-Nassr goalkeeper David Ospina was the first to strike, early in the second half. At the time, it seemed certain that Al-Hilal’s name was destined for the trophy, but late in the game both of their centre-backs, Ali Al-Bulaihi and then Kalidou Koulibaly, were sent off.

Ronaldo and his teammates, who finished the league season second behind Al-Hilal earlier in the week, looked dangerous from the start.

Sadio Mane had the best chance in the early exchanges, who shot a bit more from close range in the sixth minute. Seconds later, however, Mitrovic illustrated the difference between the two teams this season when he made the Yellows pay for missed chances with the kind of ruthless efficiency that has been the trademark of this Al-Hilal side; if you don’t take your chance against them, you will be punished. The Serbian striker waited at the far post to head the ball low into the net after Malcom’s great turn from the right.

Just three minutes later, Al-Nassr had a great chance to equalize, but Otavio shot just wide of the mark. Shortly after the half-hour mark, Yahya shot off the line from Al-Bulaihi before Ronaldo blocked a low ball with the legs of Bounou.

Soon after, the Moroccan goalkeeper was back in action, parrying another shot from the 39-year-old Portuguese superstar before saving the rebound that followed Otavi’s header. That summed up a frustrating first half for Al-Nassr, in which they outplayed most of the game.


Check out our photos from the drama-filled King’s Cup 2024 final in Jeddah

Early in the second half, Ronaldo nearly scored what could have been the goal of the season, but his spectacular, near-perfect header that left Bounou no chance deflected wide of the post.

Things started to go wrong for Al-Nassr eight minutes into the game when Malcom broke through. Ospina came out of his area and handled the ball, earning himself a red card.

Al-Nassr continued to do his best as he tried to get back into the game and Ronaldo forced another good save from Bounou with a well-taken free-kick. But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner was increasingly frustrated.

Still, Al-Hilal couldn’t quite put the game to bed and some nerves were on display when Mitrovic’s effort went just wide with only substitute goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah to beat.

Then, three minutes from the end of 90 minutes of regular time, Al-Nassr was thrown a lifeline when Al-Bulaihi was sent off for an apparent headbutt on Sami Al-Najei.

Yahya immediately took advantage by scoring from close range to spark wild celebrations from the yellow-shirted hordes and send the game into extra time, but it wasn’t until Al-Hilal were down to nine men when Koulibaly received a second yellow card.

With a reduced number of players, there was enough space on the field in the first overtime and both teams went forward in search of a winner. However, the longer they failed to get one of their own to score that all-important goal, the more inevitable it seemed that the result would be decided by penalties. And so it turned out.

Ruben Neves missed the first shot from the spot kick and then Alex Telles did too. Bounou then saved from Ali Al-Hassan and Meshari Al-Nemer to secure another trophy for Al-Hilal and leave Ronaldo lying dejected on the pitch.

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