Al-Nassr have defended star player Cristiano Ronaldo after an apparent indecent gesture towards Al-Hilal fans earlier this week.
The Riyadh derby took place on Tuesday night between Al-Nassr and Al-Hilal, another frustrating evening for Ronaldo as his side came up short 2-0 and lost further ground to Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Pro League title race.
It’s been a difficult month for Al-Alami, who sacked Rudi Garcia last week. Tuesday’s match-up against fierce adversaries Al-Hilal represented an opportunity to relight the spark and get their season back on track.
???| Cristiano Ronaldo gets a yellow card after taking an Al Hilal player down with a headlock ?
— CentreGoals. (@centregoals) April 18, 2023
However, it proved anything but a comfortable evening at the King Fahd International Stadium, with Ronaldo firing a blank, receiving a yellow card for a WWE-style foul and ultimately coming under fire for supposedly making a lewd gesture towards the Al-Hilal fans.
The game was officiated by Premier League referee Michael Oliver and another former Manchester United forward, Odion Ighalo, was responsible for Al-Hilal’s two goals.
The Nigerian striker’s goals, the second of which came from a spot-kick, put him seven clear of Ronaldo (11) in the Saudi Pro Golden Boot race with six matches left to play.
Ighalo with the GOAT celebration after scoring a game winning brace against Al Nassr ?????? pic.twitter.com/P4WIvnOxkO
— mx ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@MessiMX30iiii) April 19, 2023
Ighalo’s goal celebration tonight against Ronaldo. ? pic.twitter.com/FNYDmFvNIc
— FCB Albiceleste (@FCBAlbiceleste) April 18, 2023
Social media users drew parallels between Ighalo’s post-penalty celebration and Ronaldo’s rival, Lionel Messi.
Ighalo wouldn’t have been alone in mentioning Messi. Throughout the contest, the home supporters could be heard chanting for Lionel Messi in an obvious affront to Ronaldo.
Ronaldo Grabs His N*TS in Reaction of Messi's Chants From AL-Hilal Fans! pic.twitter.com/PemPcgeom1
— Nerdy Fox (@NerdyFox30) April 19, 2023
Ronaldo was seen grabbing his crotch while leaving the pitch and some felt this was a response to the chanting, leading to online outrage.
Calls for Ronaldo to be ejected from Saudi Arabia were reflected in the trending hashtag, “Expelling the fan’s abuser”.
Al-Nassr sought to refute this interpretation, insisting Ronaldo made no obscene gesture toward rival fans.
Explaining the incident to journalist Muhammed Al-Enezi, Al-Nassr released a statement, reading: “Ronaldo suffers from an injury. His challenge with Gustavo Cuellar, the Al-Hilal player, started with a blow in a very sensitive area. This is confirmed information. As for the fans’ explanations, they are free to think whatever they want.”
Ronaldo made a similar gesture to rival fans in far more obvious fashion during his Juventus days, although on that occasion he was mimicking Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone.
The Saudi Pro League incident comes immediately after Al-Nassr’s frustrating 0-0 draw with Al-Fayha, which saw Ronaldo argue with opposition players and storm down the tunnel. Following the game, Garcia was ultimately relieved of his duties, reportedly after falling out with the Portuguese superstar.
Al-Nassr next face Al-Wehda in the King Cup before playing host to Al-Raed in the league. As things currently stand, they trail Al-Ittihad by three points in the Saudi Pro League, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s men also having a game in hand.