Cristiano Ronaldo was handed a debut for Al Nassr against Ettifaq on Sunday as the veteran striker made his first Saudi Pro League appearance.
His debut for Al Nassr was delayed as 37-year-old Ronaldo served a two-match ban imposed by the English Football Association for an incident that saw him slap a phone from the hand of a young Everton supporter in a game at Goodison Park last season.
Ronaldo was handed the captain's armband, having already featured for a Riyadh All-Stars team – scoring twice – against Lionel Messi's Paris Saint-Germain this week.
The striker from Madeira enjoyed a winning start as his Al Nassr side overcame a gritty Ettifaq in a game which started brightly but lost its spark as the contest unfolded.
Cristiano showed flashes but was well marshalled by the 'Commandos' from Dammam.
Brazilian Talisca was the hero of the night though as it was his headed goal just past the half hour mark that secured maximum points for the home side that was enough for Rudi Garcia's men to recover top spot in the league.
Al Nassr back on top
With today's 1-0 win over Ettifaq, Al Nassr return to the top of the Roshn Saudi League as they leapfrog both Al Hilal and Al Ittihad.
The next league game for Rudi Garcia's men will be on 3 February when they face Al Fateh away.
So what did we think about Ronaldo's debut today?
He certainly showed glimpses of what he can do and linked up well with Talisca and Pity Martinez.
He was far from one of the more active Al Nassr players though and am sure coach Rudi Garcia will want to see the Portuguese more involved in the sides build-up play.
FT: Al Nassr 1-0 Ettifaq
Talisca the hero for Al Nassr as Cristiano impresses on his Saudi Pro League debut
That's it…. far from convincing at times but Al Nassr secure three points
The ball almost reaches Ronaldo as he applauds his team mate.
Dying seconds of the game now as Ettifaq over hit a cross and surely thats it…
Just one shot on target all evening from Ettifaq which pretty much tells you all you need to know about the visitors who have been average!
Three minutes to be added.
Final minute of the contest and the second half has failed to match the high tempo first 45 that we enjoyed.
Cristiano looks comfortable now and has carved out some decent chances in this half.
Al Nassr will look to the win though and the three points that sees them leapfrog back to the top of the Saudi Pro League table.
Al Mosa (Ettifaq) carded for disagreeing rather vociferously about a referring decision.
Still time for Ettifaq to cause a shock here with just the Talisca header dividing the sides.
I'm struggling to recall anything like a decent chance on goal from the side from Dammam as the clock ticks down.
Hazazi gifted a great scoring chance but with the goal at his mercy, heads wide. The flag was up however to save his blushes.
CR7 nearly gets his goal as once again the Ettifaq keeper does well in denying the home side as he saves with his feet, albeit from an acute angle.
Al Nassr are in Saudi Super Cup action next week as they face Al Ittihad in the semi-final.
Their next league action is an away game against Al Fateh on 3 February.
Another Al Nassr change as
Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem is replaced by Ali Al-Hassan
Ettifaq seem to have managed to survive the wave of constant attack from Al-Aalami as the clock ticks down.
How much the home fans would love to see a goal from Ronaldo….
Al Nassr need that second goal. Ettifaq will get a handful of chances and all it needs is better finishing from Vitinho to deliver a scare to the home side.
Changes for Al Nassr
Off Pity Martinez and Ghareeb
On Sami and Yahya
The past ten minutes has been an onslaught from the home side and if it wasn't for Paulo Victor in the Ettifaq goal, the home side could be 4-0 ahead.
The ball now being peppered on the Ettifaq goal.
Al Nassr 65-35 (%) Ettifaq
Min 60: Al Nassr 1-0 Ettifaq
What a shot from Talisca as the Brazilian is assisted by Ronaldo ….once again Ettifaq's best player of the night, Paulo Victor saves well.
Great play from Al Nassr as Cr7 finds Pity Martinez and that's a fine volley from the Argentine as the keeper saves well.
Abdulmajeed Al-Sulaiheem with another great chance as the keeper saves well again.
Al Nassr really knocking on the door now.
Ettifaq win a dangerous free as Vitinho is upended. Five in the Al Nassr wall as it's the Brazilian who strikes but that was poor. Wide and nothing for Nawaf Al-Aqidi to worry abouy.
Nice work from Cristiano as he works a nice one-two and drives on goal but the ball strikes a man in green for a corner for Al Nassr.
The start to the second half pretty much sees us continue where we left off in the first 45.
Al Nassr dominate the action as the Commanders look to strike with Vitinho and Quaison the outlets for Ettifaq.
The home side need that second goal to quell any nerves.
The noise levels from the first half seem to abated with a more serene atmosphere now. The noise levels at spells in the first 45 were indeed impressive.
Ali Lajami takes an elbow to the ribs and needs medical attention.
The No. 78 is back on his feet and seems okay to carry on.
Off we go. Ettifaq start the second half.
The teams make their way back to the field at Mrsool Park with the green clad Ettifaq first to reappear.
The home side emerge and receive a warm round of applause.
Al Nassr will be back in action next Thursday as they face Al Ittihad in the semi-final of the Saudi Super Cup.
HT: Al Nassr 1-0 Ettifaq
As things stand, the solitary goal from Talisca would be enough to propel Al Nassr back to the summit of the Saudi Pro League table.
So, what to make of Cristiano's first 45 minutes of competitive football since representing Portugal at the 2022 Qatar World Cup?
He's been active but possibly over anxious to make an immediate impression. The 'Commanders' defence is giving him little or no space and he's operating in a tight space.
The whistle sounds and that brings the end to the half and Cristiano Ronaldo's first 45 minutes of top flight Saudi Pro League action.
We'll have one minute of time to be added on.
Three minutes remain in Riyadh and Al Nassr are good value for their lead.
It's been a half with plenty of endeavour from Ronaldo but Talisca is the player who has shone tonight with the Brazilian bagging the goal and good in distribution.
Half chance for Ettifaq as Vitinho blasts the ball into the side netting in a rare break forward for the side in green.
Al Nassr 68-32 (%) Ettifaq
Less than ten minutes of the half remain and just the Talisca goal separate the sides.
Ettifaq somewhat goal shy and yet to really trouble Aqidi in the Al Nassr goal
Free for Al Nassr as Talisca is upended… this is vintage CR7 territory….
is it current CR7 territory?
No, poor from the striker as he gets the ball up well but it just fails to come down on time and easy for Victor to let go.
Fine header from the Brazilian latching on to the flighted ball as CR7 was unable to get his head onto the ball.
Al Nassr take the lead as Talisca heads home
Despite their being a decent pace to the game, neither keeper has been called into action yet with Ettifaq's Victor the more active of the two stoppers.
Talisca, Martinez and CR7 are still yet to get on the same wavelength as play is held up as a collision forces the ref to halt the action.
Card for Mowalad (Ettifaq) for leading with studs showing.
Another big appeal from CR7 as the striker felt he was wrestled to the ground but once again, the ref waves play on and Al Nassr have to settle for a corner.
The home side now very much on top.
Brazilian Talisca looked good in the exhibition game on Thursday with the striker bagging one of the finest goals of the nine all night.
Big appeal from the home fans as Ronaldo is robbed of the ball on the edge of the Ettifaq box (unfairly) for the Mrsool Park supporters but the ref waves play on.
What a mess-up at the back for Al Nassr as keeper Alaqidi is miles out of his box but is saved by a raised linesman flag.
Cristiano strikes and the ball is deflected behind for a corner by Tisserand.
First corner of the night for Al Nassr as Ettifaq clear behind for yet another corner kick.
Pity Martinez and CR7 just fail to connect as the ball runs through to Paulo Victor with the Brazilian one of Ettifaq's seven non-Saudi players.
A huge cheer greets Cristiano every time he touches the ball but as things stand, it's actually Ettifaq who look more comfirtable on the ball.
First touch from Ronaldo and it's not great as he gives the ball away to a man in green.
A hint of early game nerves maybe for the striker with great noise levels being generated by the home fans.
Al Nassr start the game
Plenty of CR7 banners, shirts and posters on display tonight with the levels of expectation from the 24,000 fans packed into the Mrsool Park palpable.
Flares now burn to give the atmosphere a Istanbul derby feel !
A huge 'Vamos' tifo in yellow and blue greets the teams as the Saudi national anthem plays.
The teams are in the tunnel.
Face of intense concentration on Ronaldo as he wears the captains armband.
Al Nassr in their traditional yellow and blue with Ettifaq in green and white …very much a Mexico kit vibe from the visitors.
This is how the 'Commandos' from Dammam start this evening with the visitors employing a 4-4-2 system
Al Nassr XI
This is the al Nassr formation for tonight's game…
CR7 leads the line as part of a 4-5-1 employed by French coach Rudi Garcia.
CR7 warming up
Just over ten minutes before the game gets underway.
Our pre-match prediction favours a home win with the Knights of Najd boosted by Cristiano's presence with the Portuguese striker to find the target tonight.
We go for a 4-0 win…. sorry Ettifaq fans !
'Live' SPL table
Just 2 points seperate Al Hilal at the summit and Al Nassr in third with The Blue Waves having played 15 games, Al Ittihad on 14 with the 13 of Al Nassr.
Riyadh rivals Al Hilal have just beaten Abha FC (1-2) to go top of the Saudi Pro League ahead of the Al Nassr and Ettifaq which closes matchday 14.
Patrice Careton names his side to face Al Nassr this evening with Velkovski and Mahnashi both ruled out through injury. Vitinho will lead the line for the 'Commandos' this evening.
Al Nassr XI confirmed
So, the news that many have been anxious to see…. Cristiano Ronaldo makes his Saudi Pro League debut for Al Nassr at Mrsool Park.
Talisca and Pity Martinez will accompany the Portuguese in the Al Nassr frontline with Nawaf Al-Aqidi selected to replace the injured David Ospina.
Ettifaq boss Carteron returns to Al Nassr
Ettifaq's French manager Patrice Carteron returns to Mrsool Park where back in 2017 he was manager. The 53-year-old is something of a coaching globetrotter having overseen the likes of Al Ahly, Mazembe, Phoenix Rising and Raja Casablanca.
Al Nassr-Ettifaq referee
35-year-old Khalid Al Turais will be tonight's match official for the clash at Mrsool Park.
Cristiano Ronaldo / FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP
CR7's FIFA ban
The Portuguese star has been unable to debut for his new team due to a FIFA ban after the player slapped a teenager’s phone in a moment of frustration last April at Old Trafford. He was hit with a $61,000 fine and a two-game suspension, which he has now served after missing the SPL games against Al Ta’ee and Al Shabab.
Who are Al Nassr's 7 non Saudi players
Saudi Pro League regulations permit all top flight clubs to have seven non Saudi players as part of the first team squad.
Ronaldo is one of the seven with Colombian keeper David Ospina being the other high profile player.
The other five non Saudis are:
Alvaro Gonzalez (Spain) The former Villarreal and Marseille man is a versatile centre back.
Pity Martinez (Argentina) Looking to redeem himself after a lacklustre spell with MLS side Atlanta United and recover the River Plate form that saw him an integral part of Gallardo's side.
Luis Gustavo (Brazil) Now 35, the veteran Brazilian is most known for his time with Bundesliga sides Bayern and Wolfsburg.
Talisca (Brazil) Exciting striker who has had spells with high profile Benfica (Portugal) and Besiktas (Turkey)
Ghislain Koonan (Ivory Coast) International with the African nation and emerged after spells with Vitoria SC (Portugal) before moving to Reims in France.
Injury issues for Ettifaq too
Ettifaq player Naim Sliti is expected to miss between two-three months of action after tendon surgical intervention earlier in the week.
David Ospina ruled out for six weeks
With no David Ospina for Al Nassr tonight, Amin Bukhari expected to man the goal for Al Nassr tonight.
The Colombian keeper has been ruled out for at least six weeks after a nasty collision late on during the 0-0 draw with Al Shabab last weekend.
Riyadh All-Star's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo / FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Cristiano’s deal with the Roshn Saudi League side runs for two and a half years through to June 2025, with the player set to earn a total salary of $231m per year once commercial agreements are also included. The deal is thought to be the highest salary ever paid to a professional footballer.
CR7 shirt ready for action
The home dressing room at the Mrsool Park stadium is ready with just less than 90 minutes to go to kick-off in Riyadh with today's Roshn Saudi League generating huge levels of international interest with the game being shown live in the likes of Italy, Portugal and Germany.
As the 2022/23 Roshn Saudi League heads towards the halfway mark of the season, Al Nassr are well positioned to make an assault for the league title, as they trail Nuno Espirito Santo’s Al Ittihad by just one point, having played a game less than the Jeddah-based side. All three major title contenders – Al Ittihad, Al Nassr and third-placed Al Hilal – have been beaten just once all season and it seems inevitable that one of the big three of Saudi football will claim the 22/23 title.
Al Nassr vs Ettifaq: last five meetings
March 2022, Saudi Pro League: Ettifaq 2-2 Al Nassr
December 2021, Champions Cup Saudi Arabia: Al Nassr 1-0 Ettifaq
October 2021, Saudi Pro League: Al Nassr 0-1 Ettifaq
March 2021, Premier League: Ettifaq 1-1 Al Nassr
December 2020, Saudi Pro League: Al Nassr 2-2 Ettifaq
Thoughts now turn back to the domestic campaign as Al Nassr will look to maintain pressure of table toppers with Nuno Espirito Santo's Al Ittihad holding a one point lead over Al Nassr as the Riyadh 'knights' face tenth placed Ettifaq.
Leo Messi of Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo / AurelienMeunier2019 / PSG via Getty Images
CR7 and Messi head-to-head
Thursday night's game was possibly the last time we will see two recent greats of the game on the pitch for the last time as CR7 and Messi shared the pitch at the King Fahd Stadium.
Cristiano was in action earlier this week in the Saudi capital as a Riyadh Season XI composing players from local sides Al Hilal and Al Nassr faced PSG in a friendly exhibition game.
The Portuguese striker showed that he still has the thirst for scoring as he bagged a brace as his side lost 4-5 in a hugely entertaining contest.
After joining the Riyadh based side on 30 December last month, this is the day that all Al Nassr fans have been waiting for as Cristiano Ronaldo pulls on the yellow and blue shirt for the first time in a competitive match.
The action at Mrsool Park gets underway at 20:30 (local time) / 18:30 (CET) / 12:30 pm (ET) and 09:30 am (PT)
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Saudi Pro League/Roshn Saudi League clash as Al Nassr face Dammam based Ettifaq.
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