Arab Club Champions Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr was almost down and out when they were 1-0 behind against Al-Hilal in the second half and lost 2 players due to red cards in the final. Nonetheless, the 38-year-old Portugal national team captain and five-time Ballon d’Or winner carried the 10-man Al-Nassr’s back with a brace against the opponent after 120 minutes, helping his club to win its first ever Arab Club Champions Cup title in history. The trophy was also Ronaldo’s first since leading his former club Juventus to win Coppa Italia in the 2020/2021 Season.
1-0 and Two Man Down for Al-Nassr
The final of the Arab Club Champions Cup this season featured two heavyweights from the Saudi Pro League who have been heavily pursuing ex-European club players in recent times, with Al-Nassr having Seko Fofana, Sadio Mané, Ghislain Konan, Alex Telles, Marcelo Brozović, Ronaldo, etc. while Al-Hilal is home to Kalidou Koulibaly, Rúben Neves, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Malcom, etc.
Both sides had their fair share on chances in the first half but none was able to have a breakthrough until the early stages of the second 45 minutes. Just six minutes into the next half, 26-year-old Brazilian forward Malcom whipped in a perfect cross for teammate and compatriot Michael to draw first blood of the match with a diving header. The former CR Flamengo forward Michael even threw shades at Ronaldo by performing the latter’s famous “Siu” celebration to honour his goal in the Arab Club Champions Cup Final.
To rub salt into the wound, after falling one goal behind versus Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr lost centre-back Abdulelah Al-Amri after a red card for his last-man tackle on Malcom in the 71st minute, while 23-year-old defender Nawaf Boushal was also dismissed minutes later for arguing with the referee when he was on the bench.
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Al-Nassr’s First Arab Club Champions Cup Win
With all odds against Cristiano Ronaldo and his Al-Nassr side in the Arab Club Champions Cup Final, the team in yellow was able to pull themselves together and rally back into the game. The 38-year-old Portuguese captain led the comeback by levelling things up in the 74th minute, after right-back Sultan Al-Ghannam sent a decent low cross into the box. Ronaldo’s fifth goal of the tournament was sufficient to extend the game to extra time.
Eight minutes after the restart, a chaotic situation saw Talisca almost catch his opponent off guard with his long-ranged effort. Instead, the powerful shot bounced off the post and the Al-Nassr captain Ronaldo was the quickest to react to the rebound and put the ball into the back of the net with his header. The goal was proved to be Al-Nassr‘s winner in the Arab Club Champions Cup Final as Al-Hilal was unable to equalise with 12 minutes plus added time remaining.
Ronaldo: Al-Nassr’s First Arab Club Champions Cup Top Scorer
The former Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Juventus megastar was Al-Nassr’s best and clutchest player in the 2023 Arab Club Champions Cup. With Al-Nassr on the brink of elimination in the final fixture of the group stage, Ronaldo scored an 87th-minute equaliser against Zamalek Sporting Club from Eygpt. In addition to his brace in the final, the 38-year-old too contributed a goal in the quarterfinal as well as a winning penalty in the semis. This incredible statistics of 6 goals in 6 matches in this season’s Arab Club Champions Cup made him the top scorer of the tournament, becoming the first and only Al-Nassr player to achieve the feat.
After winning their first Arab Club Champions Cup silverware, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr will kickstart their Saudi Pro League season against Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson’ Al-Ettifaq at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium tomorrow.
Neymar in Advanced Talks to Join Al-Hilal
On the other hand, the losing finalist of the Arab Club Champions Cup, Al-Hilal, is reportedly in serious discussions to sign Brazilian star Neymar from French Ligue 1 club Paris Saint-Germain. The 31-year-old attacker, who tops the list of the most expensive transfers in football’s history when he moved to Paris from Spanish La Liga side Barcelona, wants to leave PSG after scoring 118 goals in 173 appearances in all competitions across six seasons for the 11-time French Ligue 1 winner. His potential incoming transfer to the Saudi Pro League will definitely elevate the league’s attention to new heights.