Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi each got on the scoresheet in Riyadh on Thursday night, as the latter’s Paris Saint-Germain edged the former’s Allstar XI 5-4 in their exhibition match at King Fahd Stadium.
The match, entitled the Riyadh Season Cup, appeared to be close to a sell-out, with Paris Saint-Germain fielding a near full-strength line-up. Their starting XI included recent World Cup winner Messi, Qatar 2022 runner-up and top scorer Kylian Mbappe, and Brazil star Neymar.
Messi opened the scoring on the night on two minutes, the Argentina captain finishing expertly under Mohammed Al Owais after he was played in by Neymar. Moments later, Ronaldo tested Navas when he raced through, before Luiz Gustavo forced a fine save from the PSG goalkeeper.
Not to be outdone, Al Owais in the opposite goal denied Neymar, while Mbappe had a goal correctly ruled out for offside – Messi supplying the pass to send him clear.
Then, just after the half hour, Ronaldo won a penalty. The former Real Madrid forward contested an in-swinging free-kick with Navas, only for his ex-teammate to inadvertently catch Ronaldo in the face as he attempted to punch clear the ball.
Ronaldo picked himself up and brilliantly dispatched the spot-kick, much to the crowd’s delight. His trademark “Siuuuu” celebration chant rang around the stadium.
Not long after, Juan Bernat was given a straight red card for hacking down Salem Al Dawsari close to the halfway line.
Yet, almost immediately, PSG restored their lead. Three minutes from half-time, Mbappe curled a sublime cross into the Allstar penalty area, and centre-back Marquinhos supplied a superbly deft finish.
From there, a frenetic conclusion to the first half played out; Al Owais saved a weak penalty from Neymar after the Brazilian had been felled in the box by Ali Al Bulaihi – VAR was required – and, as half-time beckoned, Ronaldo pulled his team level.
He needed two bites at the cherry, though, his header deep into injury-time coming back off the post before he smashed home the rebound.
The second half began with nearly as much action. Navas produced a fantastic reaction save from Gonzalo Martinez, while teammate Anderson Talisca smashed a fierce left-footed drive inches beyond the PSG top corner.
But the Lique 1 champions edged out in front. On 53 minutes, Mbappe twisted full-back Saul Abdulhamid one way and the other, leaving Sergio Ramos – another former Ronaldo teammate - to stab his low centre into the Allstar goal.
It prompted another frantic spell. Three minutes later, Hilal defender Hyeon Soo-jang flicked a corner past Navas and, as the Allstar XI were presumably still delighting in drawing level, PSG won another penalty – Al Bulaihi blocked Messi’s goal-bound shot with his arm – and Mbappe took responsibility. The Frenchman sent Al Owais the wrong way to make it 4-3.
Both managers made a raft of substitutions shortly after the hour, with Messi, Mbappe and Ronaldo among those withdrawn.
With 12 minutes remaining, PSG extended their lead through substitute Hugo Ekitike’s powerful strike, although there was still time for Talisca to pull one back right at the death. It proved not to be enough – in the end, PSG triumphed by a solitary goal on a wholly entertaining night in Riyadh.