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Dhaka Tribune

ASIAN CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Advantage Al Ain as Ronaldo’s Al Nassr put on back foot

Al Ain ended Al Nassr’s run of 8 matches without a loss in the continental championship and put a slight question mark over a 3rd straight semi-final appearance for the Saudi club

Update : 05 Mar 2024, 06:29 AM

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr lost the first leg of their AFC Champions League quarterfinal match 1-0 to United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain in an ill-tempered battle Monday.

At Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, Soufiane Rahimi scored the only goal in the 44th minute, thus ending Nassr’s run of eight matches without a loss in the continental championship and putting a slight question mark over a third straight semi-final appearance for the Saudi club.

Al Ain were without their star striker Kodjo Laba, out because of an injury, and Moroccan Rahimi stepped up and excelled.

The goal was his sixth in the competition, matching Laba’s tally as the club’s highest scorer this season.

Al Ain goalkeeper Khalid Essa twice denied Ronaldo with acrobatic saves, and Nassr lost Aymeric Laporte through a red card in the fourth minute of a 15-minute-long added time.

After Sadio Mané and Ayman Yahya had a couple of chances for Nassr early in the first half, Rahimi nearly put Al Ain ahead in the 23rd but David Ospina pulled off a diving save.

In the 28th minute, Rahimi was in the thick of things with an assist to Kaku, but the goal was denied as Rahimi was found to be offside.

Moments after Ronaldo missed a chance by the narrowest of margins, it was the hard-working Rahimi, quite appropriately, who scored by latching on to an Alejandro Romero through pass.

Rahimi dribbled past Ospina and scored what proved to be the decider with minutes remaining for half-time.

Nassr had a chance to bounce right back, but Eisa saved a Ronaldo volley in the 45th minute.

Ronaldo got another chance eight minutes into the second half to draw parity for his team, but he smashed a beautiful cross by Aiman Yahya straight over.

Rahimi went past Ospina once again in the 72nd minute, but a second Al Ain goal was declined as Rahimi was declared offside by a fraction of a foot past Laporte.

Al Nassr created several opportunities as they went on the offensive in the second half, but they could not get through.

With the number of fouls which led to eight yellow cards, 11 minutes were added in the second half, and that time got extended further when Laporte elbowed Al Ahbabi in 90+4 minute.

The second leg of the quarter-final will be played Monday in Saudi Arabia.

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