Saturday, December 02, 2023
Football legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have fans across the world and it was evident when the Portuguese forward’s Al-Nassr suffered a 3-0 defeat against league leaders Al-Hilal in the Riyadh derby.
When Ronaldo was walking back to the pavilion at the King Fahd International Stadium on Friday, Al-Hilal fans started humiliating him with “Messi, Messi”, chants.
The loss further trailed Al-Nassr’s fierce rivals at the top of the Saudi Pro League standings. The Portuguese had a goal disallowed for an alleged offside that wasn't reviewed by the VAR.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic put the league leaders in the lead before Aleksandar Mitrovic's late brace secured a victory that propelled unbeaten Al-Hilal seven points clear of Al-Nassr at the summit after 15 games into the season.
Following a goalless first half, Saud Abdulhamid delivered a 64th-minute cross from the right for former Lazio midfielder Milinkovic-Savic to head in the opener, beating Nawaf Al-Aqidi low and to his right.
Mitrovic then nodded in the second goal with a minute remaining when he met Salem Al Dawsari's corner with a header.
Three minutes later, the Serbian forward completed the scoring by cutting inside Aymeric Laporte to shoot through Al-Aqidi's legs, marking his 13th goal of the season and narrowing the gap to two goals behind Ronaldo on the top scorers' chart.
The match concluded on a sour note for Al-Hilal as defender Ali Al-Bulayhi was sent off in injury time by Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan, despite Jorge Jesus' side securing their 13th win in 15 league games.
With this crucial victory, Al Hilal reached 41 points at the summit of the standings, while Al-Nassr held second place with 34 points.
Football legends Ronaldo and Messi will face each other one more time in Saudi Arabia in February next year.
The duo recently faced each other on the football pitch earlier in January this year when Messi's Paris Saint-Germain locked horns with Riyadh All-Stars XI with the former securing a 5-4 victory in the Kingdom.
Many believe it would mark the final time Messi and Ronaldo shared a pitch as they near the end of their careers on different continents.
Both strikers have dominated international football for more than ten years with Ronaldo winning his first of five Ballon d'Or awards in 2008 Over the next 14 years, he and Messi have shared the prestigious trophy 12 times.
Ronaldo will face Messi's Inter Miami in a pre-season friendly match titled "The Last Dance" — a homage to their probable final clash on the football pitch — ahead of the 2024 Major League Soccer season.