Cristiano Ronaldo saved his best goal since arriving in Saudi Arabia for when Al-Nassr needed it most on Tuesday, scoring the decisive strike in a dramatic 3-2 victory against Al-Shabab.
The Yellows found themselves 2-0 down in this crucial Riyadh derby that they had to win, and a spectacular second-half strike from the five-time Ballon D’Or winner achieved just that.
The result also keeps alive Ronaldo’s dreams of adding the Roshn Saudi League title to the dozens of trophies already won in a glittering career as it prevented leaders Al-Ittihad from celebrating a first league championship since 2009.
At the same time, Al-Ittihad defeated bottom, and now relegated, team Al-Batin 1-0 to stay three points clear with two games of the season remaining. With a better head-to-head record — goal difference does not separate teams level on points — the Jeddah giants can lift the trophy with a win against Al-Feiha on Saturday. The pressure will now be on, however, thanks to a determined performance from Al-Nassr to defeat their local rivals.
Al-Shabab, in third place, started brightly but the hosts soon started to get on top and before the 20-minute mark there were two penalty appeals. It was Al-Shabab who got the spot kick midway through the first half, however, as a corner hit Luiz Gustavo’s left arm and, after a consultation with the pitchside monitor, up stepped Cristian Guanca. While his fellow Argentine Agustin Rossi got a hand to the low shot, he could not keep it out and the Whites were ahead.
It was a goal cheered wildly down in Jeddah as the leaders quickly made their presence felt at home to Al-Batin. After nine minutes, Ahmed Sharahili swung over a perfect cross from the left and the in-form Romarinho climbed high to head into the net.
Ronaldo climbed even higher after 32 minutes. Just seconds after blasting a free-kick against the wall, he hung in the air — one of his trademark moves enjoyed by Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus fans over the years — to head a Ghislain Konan cross against the crossbar with Kim Seung-gyu nowhere near.
Eight minutes later, Al-Shabab scored again in emphatic fashion. Guanca’s first may have just crept past the hand of Rossi, but the second was a rocket. He swapped two short passes in quick succession on the edge of the area before lashing a fierce shot past the goalkeeper.
Soon after, Al-Shabab’s Korean goalkeeper Kim got down well to save a shot from Sultan Al-Ghannam but he could not keep out the hosts for long. Talisca revised the ball just inside the area to turn and shoot home in one fluid motion.
It gave hope to the hosts and lifted the fans, but even so, as the teams went into the dressing rooms, Al-Ittihad knew that if the two scorelines stayed the same then the title was theirs.
Al-Nassr came out determined not to let that happen and were soon back on level terms. Ali Al Hassan pulled the ball back from the left and there was Abdulrahman Ghareeb to turn on the edge of the six-yard box to shoot home.
Nine minutes later, Ronaldo struck in style to cap an impressive turnaround. The Portuguese megastar picked up the ball 30 meters out, skipped past two defenders and curled the ball home from the edge of the area. It was goal number 14 in 15 league games, and perhaps the best since his January debut.
There were a few scares but Al-Shabab, who stay third above defending champions Al-Hilal who lost 2-0 to Al-Adalah earlier in the day, could not get the equalizer as Al-Nassr hung on for a vital win and lived to fight another day. Al-Ittihad also managed to secure a narrow but precious victory. If the Tigers win at Al-Fayha on Saturday the title will be theirs but if not, and Al-Nassr do the business at Ettifaq, then we go down to the final day and then anything could happen.
Source: Arab News
BDST: 1011 HRS, MAY 24, 2023