Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr lost the lead of the Saudi Pro League after slipping to a 1-0 loss to title rivals Al Ittihad.
It was a scrappy contest low on quality for the most part, with Ronaldo cutting a more and more frustrated figure as the game progressed.
Al Ittihad were marginally the better side, they showed the greater attacking endeavour, and the one moment of real quality secured the points through Romarinho 10 minutes from time.
The win sees Al Ittihad climb back to the top of the table, one point clear of Al Nassr, after 20 games of the season played.
Chances were few and far between in the first half, and Ronaldo dropped deep in a bid to make an impact on the game.
The former Manchester United man fashioned a chance on the half-hour mark and struck a shot on goal, but he was flagged for offside.
Al Ittihad showed more attacking threat after the break, and Bruno Henrique should have done better when he headed wide from six yards.
Ronaldo attempted to take the game by the scruff of the neck on 55 minutes, but his free-kick flew way over the bar and his protests for a corner were met with deaf ears by Mateu Lahoz – the Spanish referee who infamously brandished 18 yellow cards in the World Cup game between Netherlands and Argentina.
Al Ittihad grew in confidence and fashioned a fine chance on 58 minutes. Henrique broke into the box but he was denied by goalkeeper Nawaf Al-Aqidi, and the follow-up effort was cleared off the line by Alvaro Gonzalez.
Romarinho was a lively presence for Al Ittihad and his header on 62 minutes was repelled by Nawaf.
The Brazilian kept pushing and was rewarded with the winner on 80 minutes.
It was an excellent, composed finish, but the goal owed much to the buccaneering run from Ahmed Sharahili who drew defenders before cutting inside and picking out Romarinho who applied the finishing touch after taking the ball in his stride.
Ronaldo fashioned a chance deep in injury time, but his fierce drive was tipped over as Al Ittihad held on to take control of the title race.
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