Saudi Arabia - In an electrifying showdown at Riyadh's Al-Awwal Park on Friday, Al-Nassr delivered an exhilarating 4-3 win against arch-rivals Al-Ahli during the seventh round of the Saudi Professional League.
With this breathtaking victory, Al-Nassr soared to 15 points, propelling them to the fifth position, ahead of Al-Ahli on goal difference. Furthermore, they stretched their lead over the league leaders, Al-Ittihad, to a formidable three points.
After a turbulent start to the season, Al-Nassr has set the league on fire with an impressive string of seven consecutive victories - five in the league and two in Asia.
During this scorching run, they've hammered in 27 goals while conceding a mere six.
Al-Nassr entered this high-stakes clash riding high on their recent triumph over Persepolis in Tehran, where they secured a sensational 2-0 victory in their opening match of the AFC Champions League just days before.
In the post-game spotlight, Cristiano Ronaldo couldn't contain his enthusiasm: "We started the game with a bang, grabbing an early two-goal lead. Our ultimate goal was the win and putting smiles on our fans' faces. We now stand at the summit of the leaderboard."Ronaldo reaffirmed his unwavering passion for the beautiful game, declaring, "I still love football even at my age, and I will continue until my legs tell me Cristiano is done. But for now, I feel great and I'm here to help the team."
As the smoke from the stadium's fireworks still hung in the air, Al-Nassr seized the lead with a dazzling play: Senegalese Sadio Mané's precise pass found Ronaldo, who elegantly dribbled past defenders and slotted the ball beyond Senegalese keeper Edouard Mendy just 5 minutes into the game.
Ronaldo came agonizingly close to doubling the lead, courtesy of a pinpoint cross from Brazilian maestro Anderson Talisca. Ronaldo met the ball with a close-range shot that narrowly missed the target at the 9th minute.
Al-Nassr, however, showed no signs of relinquishing their grip on the game. Spanish defender Aymeric Laporte delivered a pinpoint header toward Talisca, who nodded it in from the far post at the 17th minute.Gradually, Al-Ahli found their rhythm. Ivorian midfielder Frank Kessié capitalized on a through-ball, dribbled past defenders, and slotted it home at the 30th minute.
The referee awarded a direct free-kick on the edge of the box for Al-Nassr, and Ronaldo stepped up, but Mendy pulled off an acrobatic save at the 45th minute.
In injury time of the first half, Al-Ahli had a golden opportunity to level the score. Spanish midfielder Gabri Veiga displayed mesmerizing footwork inside the box, eluding defenders and passing the ball to Frenchman Allan Saint-Maximin.
However, an Al-Nassr defender intervened at the last moment to thwart the chance.Al-Ahli paid a hefty price for that missed opportunity, as Al-Nassr extended their lead in the following attack.
Talisca controlled the ball at the edge of the box and unleashed a thunderous left-footed strike that rattled the crossbar before nestling into the net, cementing their dominance at the 45+6th minute.
Early in the second half, the referee awarded a penalty for Al-Ahli's Bassam Al-Hurigi after he was fouled by Talisca, and Algerian Riyad Mahrez confidently converted it at the 49th minute.
After Mané missed a chance to score the fourth goal with a one-on-one opportunity, firing the ball high at the 51st minute, Ronaldo completed his second goal. Talisca delivered the ball to Ronaldo, who evaded a defender with a deft dribble and struck the ball low with his left foot from outside the box, finding the back of the net at the 52nd minute.
Ronaldo further solidified his position as the league's top scorer with nine goals, holding a three-goal lead over his teammate Mané and Al-Hilal's Salem Al-Dosari, who both have six goals to their names.
Al-Ahli made attempts to mount a comeback but couldn't find a way past the goalkeeper, even when Brazilian striker Firmino had a chance with a header at the 65th minute.Saudi national team striker Feras Al Brikan, who came on as a substitute in the second half, managed to narrow the gap two minutes before the end of the game, capitalizing on a pass from Mahrez.
With the referee adding 10 minutes of stoppage time, the game remained on a knife's edge, but despite their efforts, Al-Ahli couldn't secure more than a point, even hitting the crossbar in the dying moments.
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