Cristiano Ronaldo’s frustrating start to life in Saudi Arabia continued during the opening 45 minutes of his latest match.
The 37-year-old decided to turn his back on European football at the end of last year, with his acrimonious Manchester United exit confirmed in November. Noises from Ronaldo’s camp had initially hinted he would only join a team in the Champions League.
However, once it became clear that the market wouldn’t materialise, he made the decision to join Al-Nassr in the Middle East. The Portuguese legend claimed that his move to Saudi was for footballing reasons - and not the £173m-per-year contract put on the table.
Despite now being in the twilight of his iconic career, most expected that once the football got underway, the drop in standard would be clear. But if he or his fans were expecting an easy ride, his introduction into the Pro League quickly dispelled those myths.
Ronaldo failed to score in his first two competitive appearances for Al-Nassr, with Rudi Garcia’s side crashing out of the Saudi State Cup in the second. Garcia actually pinpointed the veteran’s miss against Al-Ittihad as the turning point in their latest defeat.
He also suggested that his new team-mates would have to quickly learn to adapt their style of play with Ronaldo and not simply pass to him at every opportunity. On Friday, he lined up for the third time for Al-Nassr as they took an Al-Fateh.
During his opening cameos, Ronaldo has looked a much more positive individual - encouraging his colleagues, rather than moaning at them as he did at Old Trafford. But with his goalless drought only increasing, the first signs of frustration came to the boil.
Al-Fateh took the lead in the first half when Cristian Tello took advantage of some terrible goalkeeping to score against the run of play. Ronaldo then thought he had finally scored, only to see the referee’s assistant correctly rule it out for offside.
Minutes later though, he had another gilt-edged chance to finally open his account. Anderson Talisca, who has often outshone his more illustrious strike partner, made a strong run into the area before firing a shot which came off the inside of the post. The ball ricocheted helpfully to Ronaldo, but rather than stroke the ball into the gaping goal, he snatched at it and fired well over the crossbar.
It was then the turn of Ronaldo’s colleagues to be motivators after a mistake, trying to calm down the angry forward. Talisca quickly spared his blushes with a fine finish, backing up Garcia’s claim that they have more than one superstar.
Speaking before the game, Garcia had urged his players to look beyond Ronaldo and turn to his team-mate Talisca: “It’s very important for the players to play normally and not always try to give the ball to Cristiano.
“I told them they need to make the right choices on the pitch. Obviously when Cristiano or Talisca are alone and asking for the ball we need to give them the ball. These two players are able to make the difference.”
As the half continued Ronaldo's annoyance only continued, firstly when he was overlooked when stood in the box on his own, throwing his arms up in the air after a shot was saved. And then when he saw another effort cannon off the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
It didn't get much better after the break either, with Al-Fateh regaining the lead with a brilliant effort from distance. But with the game moving into injury time, Ronaldo finally had his say.
Al-Nassr were awarded a penalty for a clumsy tackle and after Talisca looked primed to take the spot-kick, Ronaldo took the ball off him and fired straight down the middle. There was then final twist when Talisca was shown a red card, shortly before the referee blew the final whistle on the 2-2 draw.