RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo got his 20th goal of the season on Saturday as Al-Nassr came from behind to defeat Al-Taawoun 4-1 to keep in touch with Rohsn Saudi League leaders Al-Hilal.
The victory, a fourth in succession in the league for the team in second, keeps them seven points behind their Riyadh rivals as they head into a new year. It was a fine way to end 2023; a convincing win at the home of the team in fourth place who had won 2-0 in the reverse fixture back in August.
It was an entertaining first half with Al-Taawoun taking a 13th minute lead. Abdulelah Al-Amri was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.
Up stepped Aschraf El Mahdioui and while Nawaf Al-Aqidi got down well to make the save, it resulted in a simple tap-in for the Dutchman. It also left Al-Nassr with plenty to do.
They didn’t have long to wait to be back on level terms thanks to Marcelo Brozovic. The Croatian does not score many but this was worth the wait. Anderson Talisca picked up the ball midway in the Al-Taawoun half, played a delightful one-two with Ronaldo and then slipped the ball first-time through to Brozovic who timed his run into the area perfectly. The former Inter Milan star made no mistake to fire past Mailson.
Al-Amri almost redeemed himself after 34 minutes but headed a corner against the bar. Just moments later however, Al-Nassr were ahead. It was another goal from an unlikely source as Brozovic’s corner was headed powerfully home by Aymeric Laporte.It was the Spanish international defender’s second league goal in Saudi Arabia since signing from Manchester City in the summer.
Al-Nassr continued to push forward in search of that all important cushion and it came just five minutes into the second half. It was not a goal that Al-Taawoun will want to see again. El Mahdioui, standing on the edge of his own six-yard box, tried to play casually from the back but succeeded in only passing to Otavio who just then calmly slotted the ball home to make it 3-1.
There was still enough time for Ronaldo to add a fourth. With 91 minutes on the clock, Seko Fofana crossed from the right for the Portuguese megastar to rise high and send a perfect header past the right hand of the diving Mailson.
It was the perfect way to end the year but there is still a lot of work to do in 2024.