Cristiano Ronaldo returned to action on Saturday to help Al-Nassr to a 3-1 win at Al-Wehda to close Al-Hilal’s lead at the top of the Roshn Saudi League to four points.
The 38 year-old had been rested for Al-Nassr’s 3-2 victory over Al-Duhail in Qatar in the Asian Champions League on Tuesday — a 15th win in 16 games in all competitions — and looked raring to go from the outset as did the rest of the team in what was an impressive performance.
It was not a surprise that the opening goal came early, after just 11 minutes, even if it did not come from Ronaldo. It certainly seemed to surprise the hosts as the five-time Ballon D’Or winner lined up to take a free-kick from almost 30 yards out. Instead, Alex Telles stepped up to bend a left-footed shot around the wall and into the right hand corner of the Al-Wehda with goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi rooted to the spot. It was the Brazilian’s first goal for Al-Nassr since being signed from Manchester United in the summer, as his delighted celebrations demonstrated.
Ten minutes later and the Moroccan shotstopper was flying through the air to save a header from Sadio Mane that bounced high to head towards the top left corner of the Al-Wehda goal. Moments later, the hosts almost drew level with a header from Moroccan defender Jawad El Yamiq drifting just wide.
Mohamedi was in action again just before the half-hour, diving to his right to save a fierce free-kick from Ronaldo that was even further out from the effort from Telles.
Five minutes before the break Al-Nassr extended their lead from an unlikely source. Marcelo Brozovic crossed from the left and Abdulelah Al-Amri headed home powerfully at the far post. In added time, Ronaldo almost made it three, shooting just wide from the left side of the area.
He did just that four minutes after the restart, taking advantage of a defensive mix-up from Al-Wehda to shoot home from close range for goal number 13 of the season.
Midway through the second half, Anderson Talisca bundled home a fourth but it was ruled out by VAR due to offside. Regardless, Al-Nassr were stroking it around nicely but the hosts scored next as Anselmo headed home a free-kick nine minutes from the end.
There was still time for a fourth deep for Al-Nassr in the 98th minute as Abdulrahman Ghareeb cut into the left side of the area and fired a fierce shot into the roof of the net with a finish that Ronaldo would have been proud of. Yet it was also ruled out by VAR.
It didn’t matter as Al-Nassr picked up another win to keep in touch with their Riyadh rivals at the top of the table.
Earlier, Ettifaq, who could have gone into the top six if they had won at Al-Fahya, were held to a goalless draw for the second successive game and stay in seventh.