“Al-Nassr” secured a crucial victory in the Saudi Arabian league by defeating the formidable “Al-Ahli” 4-3, bringing them closer to the league leaders. Cristiano Ronaldo has already scored 9 goals in the new season.
In Saudi Arabia, over the past three months, a significant influx of top football talent has occurred, requiring close scrutiny of not only the line-ups of teams like Cristiano Ronaldo’s “Al-Nassr” or Neymar’s “Al-Hilal” – Malkom, but also other clubs. Decent stars can be found in almost any Arabian club, thanks to the government’s financial investments in transfers, pursuing goals that are not yet clear to the general public.
It’s reminiscent of a similar situation that occurred in China a few years ago, although superstars didn’t quite make it there. However, that trend quickly subsided. Many believe that Saudi Arabia will eventually follow suit after getting their fill.
Meanwhile, the local championship is a real spectacle. “Al-Nassr,” which boasts players like Sadio Mane, Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles, Fofana, Otavio, and Talisca, in addition to Ronaldo, was sixth in the table with 12 points before the match against “Al-Ahli,” who had 18 points but played one more game. Ronaldo and his team needed to win to keep up with the leading clubs.
However, the team from Jeddah is no pushover. In their lineup, you’ll find Edward Mendy, Mane’s Senegalese national teammate and former Chelsea goalkeeper, in the goal. In the attack, Riyad Mahrez and Roberto Firmino, two former Premier League stars, were shining. Mahrez had recently played for Manchester City, while Firmino was at Liverpool. They could have remained in the English league for several more years, but money talks, and they all went after the big bucks.
The starting lineup of “Al-Ahli” was not limited to these players, given the well-known names. Turkish defender Merih Demiral played in defense, and former Barcelona player Frank Kessie was in midfield. It’s hard to argue that “Al-Nassr” had a better team on paper. The standings reflected this, with the German coach Matthias Jaissle’s team, who left Red Bull Salzburg for Saudi Arabia, being higher in the table.
“Al-Nassr” had a fitting mindset, aiming to win, given the status of their opponent. Cristiano Ronaldo quickly scored a goal, significantly simplifying the task for his team. In the fourth minute, Mane launched an attack through the center and passed to Ronaldo on the left, and the Portuguese veteran brilliantly struck it into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Five minutes later, Ronaldo almost completed a brace. He responded to a long-range shot, but hit the crossbar from close range. It was the miss of the evening, but “Al-Nassr” didn’t have to grieve for long. Just as the clock passed the quarter-hour mark, Telles delivered a free kick into “Al-Ahli’s” penalty area. Laporte’s header deflected to the far post, where Talisca headed it into the net.
The hosts played more exciting attacking football, but the visitors responded sharply as well. Eventually, “Al-Ahli” capitalized on a mistake by their opponents in the center of defense. Kessie responded to a long pass from Al-Majhad, advanced forward, and skillfully struck it into the corner.
The drinks break that followed the goal somewhat dampened the visitors’ enthusiasm. They not only failed to extend their lead before half-time but also conceded another goal. “Al-Nassr” broke away on the counter-attack in the sixth added minute, Talisca found himself at the right corner of the penalty area, received the pass, and executed a curling shot. The ball spectacularly hit the crossbar and crossed the line. The Brazilian completed his brace, and “Al-Nassr” made a strong claim for victory.
After the break, the game continued in a catch-up style, with both teams aiming for a high-scoring match. The hero of the first half, Talisca, played carelessly in front of his own goal, knocking down Al-Hurayji. Mahrez expertly converted the penalty, but the visitors couldn’t enjoy their success for long as Ronaldo completed his double.
“Al-Ahli” lost the ball in their own half, Talisca found Ronaldo with a pass, he took the ball to his left and shot low. Mendy couldn’t reach it, making the situation almost hopeless for the team from Jeddah. It’s mentally tough when you work so hard to close the gap, only to see it widen again so easily.
Ronaldo’s second goal allowed “Al-Nassr” to lead the league in goals scored with 22, one more than “Al-Hilal.” Cristiano Ronaldo’s statistics, at 38 years old, are out of this world: his ninth goal in six matches plus four assists, and in the last five league matches, he hasn’t left the field without scoring a goal!
Leading by two goals once again, “Al-Nassr” decided to spend the final minutes in a positional defense, but it didn’t work out for them. In the 87th minute, Mahrez fired a low shot from the right edge of the penalty area into the goalkeeper’s area, and Al-Buraikan easily redirected the ball into the net, setting up an exciting finish to the match. With ten minutes of added time, “Al-Ahli” had a chance to save the game, and they came close. Seconds before the final whistle, the ball grazed the hosts’ crossbar when Al-Nabit headed it after a tireless Mahrez’s cross.
“Al-Nassr” secured a crucial victory, moving up to fifth place and closing in on the leaders.
Saudi Arabia League:
“Al-Nassr” (Riyadh) – “Al-Ahli” (Jeddah) – 4:3 (3:1)
Goals: Ronaldo (Mane), 4 – 1:0. Talisca, 17 – 2:0. Kessie (Al-Majhad), 30 – 2:1. Talisca, 45+6 – 3:1. Mahrez, 50, from the penalty spot – 3:2. Ronaldo (Talisca), 52 – 4:2. Al-Buraikan (Mahrez), 87 – 4:3.
“Al-Nassr”: Al-Aqidi, Al-Ghanam, Laporte, Al-Awaji, Telles, Brozovic, Otavio (Fofana, 77), Talisca, Al-Haibari (Al-Amri, 90), Mane (Garib, 84), Ronaldo.
“Al-Ahli”: Mendy, Madjraji, Demiral, Roger, Al-Hurayji (Yaslam, 85), Kessie, Al-Mojahed (Al-Rashidi, 90), Vega (Al-Nabit, 66), Mahrez, Saint-Maximin (Al-Buraikan, 66), Firmino (Al-Juhani, 85).
Yellow cards: Mane (34),
Madjraji (45), Yaslam (90+3), Talisca (90+6).
After 7 rounds: Al-Ittihad – 18 points, Al-Hilal – 17, Al-Taween – 16, Al-Ittifaq – 16, Al-Nassr – 15, Al-Ahli – 15…