It was the game everyone looked forward to, not just in the New Year of 2023, but the possibly final showdown between two of the greatest players of all-time (GOAT) in the history of football sports caught every football fan’s eye. Cristiano Ronaldo completed his luxurious move away from Europe to Asia at the end of last year and spectators were eager to watch his debut for his new club. Just yesterday, Ronaldo finally made his first appearance in the oil-rich Middle East State of Saudi Arabia, in a match where Riyadh All-Star XI welcoming French Ligue 1 giant Paris Saint-Germain to the King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The game might have been a friendly match but with both GOATs, Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, going up against each other possibly the last time, tensions were as high as ever. The expensive debutant Ronaldo was the captain for the Arabian side.
A Nine-Goal Thriller
Fans did not have to wait long to see the first goal of the match, as 2022 FIFA World Cup-winning captain Messi received a dink pass from his teammate and best friend, Brazil’s Neymar in the penalty box, before La Pulga coolly finished the shot to open the score line. Minutes after the half-hour mark, Ronaldo was fouled by his former Real Madrid teammate Keylor Navas in the box, prompting the referee to award a penalty to the all-star side and allowing the five-time Ballon d’Or to score his first goal since his lucrative transfer to the Saudi region. A rare red card was then reluctantly given by the official when Juan Bernat, the last man of PSG fouled Salem Al-Dawsari, the Saudi player who famously scored the winning goal against Argentina in a 2022 FIFA World Cup group fixture.
Nonetheless, it was the ten-man French Ligue 1 powerhouse which regained the lead, courtesy of their captain Marquinhos’s strike. The Brazilian tapped in a delicious delivery from the 2022 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner, Kylian Mbappé to restore the lead for the away side; Paris Saint-Germain almost doubled its lead, had Neymar’s penalty before the half-time whistle gone in. The injury time was further extended due to a foul prior to the spot kick, giving the Riyadh XI another chance to equalise right before half-time, and Ronaldo was the man answering the call again. His initial header from a left flank delivery hit the post, and his another former Los Blancos teammate Sergio Ramos was not able to clear the ball, allowing CR7 to level for the Arabian side for the second time.
Four in the First Half, Five in the Second
The next half was filled with even more goals, with Ramos making up for his mistake in the first half to give PSG the lead for the third time, before Riyadh XI level the score line another time, this time through Jang Hyun-soo’s header from a corner set piece. Minutes later, Messi’s shot hit the hand of his opposition and a spot kick was awarded. The 24-year-old Paris-born Mbappé was the man to take the penalty this time and he sent the goalkeeper to the wrong way. After its fourth goal, Paris Saint-Germain knew it did not want any more equalisers from its opponent, and 20-year-old Hugo Ekitiké put the game to bed with his 78th-minute goal. The Riyadh side did get a consolation late in the stoppage time, through a wonder strike from Anderson Talisca, ending the game with a 5-4 score line in the favour of the defending French Ligue 1 champion.
If today was Messi and Ronaldo’s final meeting, then what a run it was 🐐🐐 pic.twitter.com/6NXUieM44A
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 19, 2023
Ronaldo and Messi Hugged It Out
It was a precious moment when both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi embraced each other prior to the match; The 37-year-old Portugal captain was also seen having a good time with some of his former teammates in the French club. As this may well be the last time we see the two legends of the game taking on each other, we are glad to have witnessed their greatness for the past 17 years.
Cristiano Ronaldo will likely make his official debut for Al-Nassr in its next Saudi Pro League game against Ettifaq at the King Saud University Stadium, home of CR7’s new club in Saudi Arabia. If you are wondering where you can watch his Saudi Pro League games online, we have all the details for you here: https://www.otherleague.com/football/where-to-watch-cristiano-ronaldo-saudi-pro-league.
View this post on Instagram