RIYADH: A Cristiano Ronaldo penalty gave Al-Nassr a 1-0 win over Al-Shorta on Tuesday and a place in the final of the King Salman Club Cup to face either Al-Hilal or Al-Shabab.
The star-studded Saudi Arabian side were simply too good for the Iraqi champions, although they had to wait until the second half to make their class count and for their megastar to step up from the spot.
Given the talent at their disposal, it was no surprise that Al-Nassr were quick to take control and make the early running.
The team, now under coach Luis Castro, looked comfortable in possession and moved the ball around smartly and with intent.
Within the first 10 minutes the Riyadh giants could have been three goals to the good. Anderson Talisca shot straight at Ahmed Basil from a good position after finding himself in space in the penalty area, before Ronaldo went close following a fine pass from Marcelo Brozovic. Talisca then shot over before forcing a save from the Iraqi goalkeeper.
It looked as though the deadlock had been broken after 30 minutes when Brozovic slipped the ball through for Ronaldo to net. But after a video review, the 38-year-old was found to have strayed offside.
Alex Telles then unleashed a powerful shot that came off the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten, before Ronaldo blasted over, and penalty appeals were rejected after Sadio Mane went down in the box.
At the other end, Nawaf Al-Aqidi made a comfortable save as he got down well to save an Ahmed Farhan shot from outside the area. The team from Baghdad may have posed little threat but were still level at the break.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first with the men in yellow pushing and probing to force back the men in green.
Seko Fofana tried to squeeze the ball home and frustrations grew on the hour when the midfielder skied another chance.
Then came the turning point. Mane was brought down in the box and this time the referee did point to the spot. Ronaldo kept his cool to score for the fourth successive game.
Al-Shorta had a chance in the final minute. Farhan raced clear and from just inside the area he tried to lift the ball over the advancing Al-Aqidi, who just managed to get a hand to it. It was a match-winning save.
Al-Nassr saw out added time to take the victory and maintain their hopes of lifting the Arab Club Champions Cup.