Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League on Monday, inspiring Al-Nassr to a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Istiklol to make it two wins out of two in Group E.
It was looking bleak for the Riyadh giants at the end of the first half when Senin Sebai put the Tajikistan side ahead. Then, midway through the second half, Ronaldo intervened to score for the seventh successive game, and soon after Anderson Talisca added two more to put Al-Nassr in control of the group.
The game ended comfortably but it was a rocky road beforehand. Despite having more than 80 percent possession and nine attempts on target to the visitors’ one, Al-Nassr found themselves a goal down at the break.
It was hard to comprehend as the hosts had overwhelmed their opposition from the start, but failed to register.
With the Central Asians sitting deep and happy to defend, it did not take long for the frustration to build. Ronaldo was in the thick of the action but he was just unable to get on the end of several crosses that came his way.
The Yellows came close after half an hour as Abdulrahman Ghareeb cut inside from the left and let fly with a fierce shot from 30 meters that beat the goalkeeper but not the woodwork. It would have been a contender for the goal of the tournament.
Ronaldo shot weakly at the goalkeeper from close range six minutes later but there was a feeling that a goal was coming.
It arrived, but at the other end, just before the break. Sebai’s low shot from just inside the area should have been a comfortable save but it somehow slipped through the fingers of Nawaf Al-Aqidi to silence the home fans.
Talisca’s header then looked to be heading in until Rustam Yatimov threw himself across goal to make a fine save.
After the break Al-Nassr went close when Sultan Al-Ghannam’s low cross from the right found Ghareeb at the far post but his left-footed shot went back across the face of goal and missed the target.
Marcelo Brozovic headed straight at the goalkeeper from close range after 53 minutes, but Ronaldo grabbed the all-important strike 13 minutes later.
Fed by Ghareeb on the left side of the area, Ronaldo’s first shot was blocked but he delicately lifted the loose ball into the net from the edge of the six-yard box for the coolest of finishes.
It opened the floodgates as the Saudi Arabians were soon two goals ahead. Ayman Yahya’s shot bounced off the deck and there was Talisca at the far post to head his team into the lead.
And with 13 minutes remaining, the Brazilian collected the ball on the right corner of the area and then curled the ball home.
All the frustrations over, Al-Nassr could now look forward to the clash against Qatar’s Al-Duhail. A third win in a row will give them a foot in the knockout stages.