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

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Al-Hilal defeat Al-Nassr to lift King’s Cup after penalty shootout leaves Ronaldo in tears

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

Goalkeeper Yassine Bounou was the hero, saving two spot-kicks at the conclusion of a fierce battle between the Riyadh rivals that had a little of everything. There was an early goal from Aleksandar Mitrovic that seemed to put the league champions on course for their 11th triumph in Saudi Arabia’s premier cup competition. Then there was a late, late equalizer from Ayman Yahya that took the game into extra time — but not before three players had been sent off by Argentine referee Dario Herrera.

Al-Nassr goalkeeper David Ospina was the first to go, early in the second half. At that point, it seemed certain that Al-Hilal’s name was destined to be on the cup but then, late in the game, both of their central defenders, Ali Al-Bulaihi and then Kalidou Koulibaly, were red-carded.

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


Sadio Mane had the best opportunity of the early exchanges, firing just over from close range in the sixth minute. Seconds later, however, Mitrovic illustrated the difference between the teams this season as he made the Yellows pay for missed opportunities with the kind of ruthless efficiency that has been a trademark of this Al-Hilal side; if you do not take your opportunities against them, you will be punished. The Serbian striker was waiting at the far post to head the ball low into the net after Malcom curled a fine cross over from the right.

Just three minutes later, Al-Nassr had a great chance to equalize but Otavio fired just wide from inside the area. Shortly after the half-hour mark, Yahya had a shot cleared off the line by Al-Bulaihi, and then a low effort by Ronaldo was blocked by the legs of Bounou.


The Moroccan goalkeeper was in action again soon after, pushing another shot from the 39-year-old Portuguese superstar away and then saving Otavio’s follow-up header from the rebound. This summed up a frustrating first half for Al-Nassr in which they made most of the running.


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

At the start of the second half, Ronaldo almost scored what might have been the goal of the season but his spectacular, near-perfect overhead kick, which left Bounou no chance, bounced off the post.

Things began to go wrong for Al-Nassr eight minutes after the restart when Malcom burst through on goal. Ospina came out of his area and handled the ball, earning him a red card.

Al-Nassr continued to give it their all, though, in an attempt to get back into the game, and Ronaldo forced another good save from Bounou with a well-struck free-kick. But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner appeared an increasingly frustrated figure.

Still, Al-Hilal were not quite able to put the game to bed and there were some nerves on display when a Mitrovic effort rolled just past the post when he had only substitute goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah to beat.

Then, three minutes from the end of the regulation 90 minutes, Al-Nassr were thrown a lifeline when Al-Bulaihi was sent off for seemingly headbutting Sami Al-Najei.

Yahya immediately took advantage by heading home from close range, sparking wild celebrations among the hordes of yellow-shirted fans and taking the game into extra time, but not before Al-Hilal went down to nine men when Koulibaly received a second yellow.

There was plenty of space on the pitch during the first period of extra time, given the reduced number of players, and both teams pushed forward in search of a winner. However, the longer they went without one of them managing to grab that all-important goal, the more inevitable it seemed the result would be decided by penalties. And so it proved to be.

Ruben Neves missed the first kick of the shoot-out but then so did Alex Telles. Bounou then saved from Ali Al-Hassan and Meshari Al-Nemer to secure another trophy for Al-Hilal and leave Ronaldo sprawled on the turf in despair.

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