Cristiano Ronaldo at the double as Al Nassr beat Al Hilal in King Salman Club Cup final

Portuguese attacker joins in joyous celebrations despite being forced off pitch injured during extra-time

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Cristiano Ronaldo spent the closing minutes on the Al Nassr bench, withdrawn following a nasty-looking knock to his knee, but soon he was jumping for joy, success the ultimate healer.

The Nassr captain, runner-up in last season’s Saudi Pro League, is a winner once more, adding the King Salman Club Cup to an already-impressive trophy cabinet.

It may not have been a European Championship, or one of five Uefa Champions Leagues, or any of the seven league titles plundered across Europe’s lead domestic competitions.

Yet, try telling Ronaldo that. Off via the medical buggy at the tail-end of extra-time in a dramatic final against Riyadh rivals Al Hilal in Taif on Saturday, he cast aside the apparent pain to leap into the air upon full-time and bounce with jubilant teammates.

By then, Ronaldo had bent another match to his will. He struck both Nassr’s goals in the come-from-behind, 2-1 win; the first with 16 minutes remaining and the decisive deep into the opening period of extra-time.

With six goals, Ronaldo finished the tournament top-scorer by some way, match-winning contributions racked up as the campaign grew ever more important.

Nassr, down to 10 men with 25 minutes of normal play remaining, were Arab club champions for the first time, Ronaldo getting his first taste of Saudi silverware. This was perhaps not the time to remind, but his bid for a first league title with his current club kicks into gear on Monday.

That could wait, though. Friday night was for celebration, for the chants of “Campeones” and the “Oles”. Ronaldo leading his side to glory. Despite Sergej Milinkovic-Savic collecting the player of the tournament, it should surely have gone to Ronaldo. At least he had no rival for 'man of the moment'.

The 120-plus minutes that preceded the revelry at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium were fraught with thrills and wrung taught with tension.

Hilal, two-time winners, were largely outplayed in the first half, stand-in goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais – the Saudi Arabian national team's No 1, mind – keeping Nassr at bay.

So it was against the run of play when, five minutes into the second half, Michael put Hilal 1-0, meeting Malcom's cross at the back post to head home. One of the smallest men on the pitch, it was a giant goal.

Most probably, Ronaldo would not have appreciated Michael imitating his trademark “SIIIIUUUU” celebration.

When Abdulelah Al Amri was sent off not long after the hour – the defender was first booked, then the decision overturned to red - Nassr’s chances of the cup appeared to disappear into the Taif night.

Then, Ronaldo intervened. On 74 minutes, Nassr broke down the right, the ball was rolled perfectly across goal to the predator extraordinaire and he duly obliged. Nassr were level. Ronaldo grabbed the ball and raced back to the centre-circle, his intent clear.

From there, a frantic final 15 minutes ensured. Hilal were awarded a penalty, then it too was overturned after another trip to VAR, Ronaldo had a goal chalked off for offside, Milinkovic-Savic headed off target, Al Owais saved from Malcom. Most tellingly, Sultan Al Ghannam hacked clear when Michael was poised to score.

Ali Al Bulaihi did similar in extra-time, somehow blocking Ronaldo's goal-bound drive right under his own crossbar.

Yet, as so often has been the case during a glittering 21-year professional career, Ronaldo had the last laugh. Watching on as Sadio Mane seemed to waste a golden chance and Seko Fofana's curled a shot on to the underside of the Hilal crossbar, Ronaldo was appropriately placed to head home the rebound. In the chaos of the aftermath, Nassr manager Luis Castro was sent to the stands. He would watch the remaining action from afar.

As too would Ronaldo. With seven minutes left on the clock, he motioned that he had badly twisted his knee in a challenge and was thus escorted from the pitch. Helped to the Nassr bench by teammates, the pain was etched across his face.

Soon, it turned to ecstasy. Nassr held tight to leave Ronaldo holding aloft the trophy. The hope will be it sparks yet more success in a career brimful of achievement.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 7:55 AM