Cristiano Ronaldo “showed a great deal of sportsmanship” as he urged the referee in Al Nassr’s Asian Champions League game against Persepolis on Monday to reverse a penalty decision given in his favour.
With a 10-man Al Nassr held to a goalless draw by the Iranian club, Ronaldo’s gesture stole all the spotlight. It was quite a rare act from Ronaldo, who is nicknamed “Penaldo” by Lionel Messi and Barcelona fans as a significant portion of star forward’s goals come from spot kicks.
The former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward went down under Sorous Rafiei’s challenge early in the Group E tie in Riyadh, prompting the referee, Ma Ning, to point to the penalty spot.
Persepolis players protested the decision immediately and were joined by Ronaldo, who told the official the tackle was not worthy of a penalty.
The referee reviewed the incident on a pitchside monitor and rescinded the decision.
The match ended in a 0-0 draw, with the point securing top spot in Group E and a place in the knockout rounds for the Saudi Pro League side. Al Nassr came into the game having won 18 of their previous 19 games in all competitions.
Al Nassr defender Ali Lajimi was sent off in the half for a dangerous challenge on Milad Sarlak. Ronaldo gave his Saudi Arabia team a late scare when he exited with a neck injury.
After the game, the Portuguese star wrote on X: “Happy that we qualified 1st in our group and to have achieved 20 games unbeaten. Great Teamwork.”
In the same group, Qatar’s Al-Duhail earned their first win after defeating Istiklol of Tajikistan 2-0. Earlier in Group C, Argentine coach Marcelo Gallardo picked up his first win since being appointed by Al-Ittihad this month after the Saudi Arabian champions defeated AGMK of Uzbekistan 2-1 to move into the knockout stages. Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah scored both of Ittihad’s goals in the first half.
The top team from each of the 10 groups of four in the tournament, which is divided into two geographic halves until the final, advances to the round of 16 along with the six best-placed runners-up sides.
With inputs from Reuters, AP/PTI