RIYADH: Al-Nassr joined Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal in the semi-finals of the Kings’ Cup thanks to an impressive and entertaining 5-2 victory at Al-Shabab on Monday.
While Luis Castro’s men delivered an impressive attacking performance, the result was perhaps not quite as comfortable as the scoreline might suggest.
Al-Shabab should have taken the lead after 15 minutes when Yannick Carrasco was brought down inside the area by Abdulrahman Ghareeb. The Belgian international and former Atletico Madrid star stepped up to take the spot kick himself but sent it flying over the bar.
It was a huge let-off for Al-Nassr, who took full advantage just two minutes later. Al-Shabab’s South Korean shot-stopper Kim Seung-gyu palmed a Ghareeb shot away but Seko Fofana was quick to react and send a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The advantage did not last long, however, as Carlos Junior headed home a Carrasco corner after 24 minutes to level the score.
Just four minutes later, Sadio Mane restored Al-Nassr’s lead after a lightning fast counterattack. The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool forward found Otavio on the right, then received the return pass in the area and that was that. It was his first goal for the club since October.
Al-Nassr extended their lead in added time at the end of the first half when Marcelo Brozovic slid over a low pass from the left and Ghareeb fired home from close range.
The visitors continued to press forward in an attempt to end the game as a contest and it was mission accomplished after 74 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo, the top scorer in the league so far this season, added to his overall tally. Otavio slipped the ball to him through a crowded area and the 38-year-old slotted it past the goalkeeper. It was his 50th goal of 2023 — an incredible statistic.
At that point, it was obvious that Al-Nassr were going to progress to the last four of the competition but, to their credit, Al-Shabab did not give up and were rewarded with a second goal in the 90th minute to make it 4-2, when Hattan Bahebri scored from the edge of the area. Goalkeeper Nawaf Al-Aqidi should maybe have done better but his blushes were spared a little when Mohammed Maran restored the three-goal cushion in the sixth minute of added time.
In the end it was an emphatic and entertaining win for Al-Nassr who, like Al-Hilal, remain active on three fronts: the league, the cup and the Asian Champions League.