Cristiano Ronaldo made an impressive debut for Al-Nassr on Sunday as his new team moved back to the top of the Saudi Professional League with 1-0 win over Ettifaq.
The only thing missing was a goal from the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus star but he still had a busy evening to keep a packed Mrsool Park happy. The record books will show that Anderson Talisca broke the deadlock with a first-half header but it was all about his team-mate.
It may have been a little easier for Ettifaq’s defenders to deal with Ronaldo than they imagined as anytime the ball came anywhere near the Portuguese star, the anticipation and excitement among the fans was audible. Everyone in the stadium always knew where the attacker was at every moment.
And he will have come away knowing something too: There are no easy games in this league. Ettifaq made it very difficult indeed. The play in the opening exchanges was stop and start and it took the new signing, who scored twice against Paris Saint-Germain in an exhibition on Thursday, a little time to get into the game but there was excitement every time the ball came near the megastar.
Ronaldo’s first real touch was a mis-hit pass but there was nothing wrong with his first shot on goal that came after just eight minutes. Picking up the ball just outside the area, his fierce strike was certainly on target but a deflection off Marcel Tisserand diverted the danger wide.
Six minutes later, the packed arena got a look at one of the greatest sights in the modern game, the five-time Ballon D’or winner on a drive forward. The 37-year-old drove past two defenders but the intervention of a third cleared the danger.
For the opening 20 minutes, Ettifaq looked a little more dangerous, perhaps with the hosts a little nervous with the eyes of the world on them, but as the game passed the midway stage of the first half, the Riyadh giants started to get on top.
And then the goal came and while it was not from Ronaldo, the source was a familiar one. Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem’s cross from the left into the six-yard box was perfect. The new signing rose majestically but it was too high, and there was Talisca to finish the job and head home goal number 12 of the season.
Shortly after fans were treated to another familiar sight, that of Ronaldo standing over the ball in a free-kick situation. It seemed to be the perfect distance and the shot went over the bar leaving a wry smile on the face of the taker.
Ronaldo started to show his class in the second with an early shot from distance went high and wide, he was then soon pulling the strings. Racing on to the ball on the left side, he crossed from the byline to the advancing Pity Martinez to hit on the half-volley from the edge of the area. The Argentine’s well-hit shot went just centimeters over.
Shortly after, Ronaldo was doing it again from the opposite side, dancing past defenders, treating fans to the famous stepovers and then laying the ball off to Talisca, whose rasping shot was heading for the bottom corner, forcing a fine diving save from Paulo Victor.
The new star did not manage to get on the scoresheet but was driving his team forward at every opportunity and the smiles at the end were wide and the hugs were warm.
The three points are very welcome to give Al-Nassr, 33, one ahead of Al-Hilal who defeated Abha 2-1 earlier in the day. Al-Ittihad are a point further back in third after defeating Al-Feiha.
Ronaldo is in the middle of an exciting title race and on this performance, is going to have a big part to play.