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Al-Nassr’s start to the Roshn Saudi League season went from bad to worse on Friday as they lost 2-0 to Al-Taawoun in front of their own fans in Riyadh.

Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates have now played two and lost two at the start of a campaign that promised so much. It is still early days, of course, but the title hopefuls could find themselves trailing rivals such as Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad by six points come Saturday evening. If the gap grows any larger, the pressure really will be on.

Last season’s runners-up slumped to a 2-1 defeat at Al-Ettifaq in their opening game on Monday, just two days after lifting the King Salman Club Cup. For game two, however, the stars were out in force. Not only did Ronaldo return to the squad after a minor injury but the home fans got their first look at Marcelo Brozovic, Seko Fofana and Sadio Mane, who was the only foreign star to play in their opening defeat.

The game started well enough. Ronaldo treated fans to his trademark stepovers and drew a diving save from Brazilian goalkeeper Mailson with a low shot from outside the area with just a few minutes on the clock. If the home fans were sitting back after that in anticipation of a comfortable victory, they were soon made to think again when the visitors from Buraidah took the lead.

Leandre Tawamba opened the scoring after 20 minutes. Somehow, the Cameroonian striker was left alone inside the six-yard box to meet a corner from Mateus and head home to put his team, who showed last season with their fifth-place finish that they can beat any opponent on their day, ahead.

It was not the only chance that Al-Taawoun had but most of the pressure was applied by the hosts. At the end of the half, Al-Nassr thought they had been given a lifeline when Fofana went down in the area and the referee pointed to the spot. After a check with the video assistant referee, however, the official changed his decision and rightly so.

The hosts continued to attack in the second half, with an Anderson Talisca header forcing a fine diving save from his compatriot Mailson. Al-Nassr had picked up the pace and were getting behind the Al-Taawoun defense almost at will but still struggled to create clear opportunities. Ronaldo gestured to the fans more than once to increase the noise levels but his teammates were unable to play their part in giving them something to shout about.

Then the chances did finally come, the first of them to Brozovic, with 13 minutes left. Soon after, a Mane shot was cleared off the line and then a Talisca header went just inches wide. The pressure kept coming but time was running out.

To make matters even worse, the visitors extended their lead after six minutes of added time. Following some slack defending from the hosts, who gave the ball away on the edge of their own area, Sattam Al-Roqi fed Ahmed Bahusayn and that was that.

Yes, there is still a long way to go in this league campaign but losing the first two games of the season was not part of Al-Nassr’s plan and coach Luis Castro has much to ponder.

In contrast, his counterpart at Al-Ettifaq, Steven Gerrard, will be delighted that his team continued their great start to the season with a 2-0 win at Al-Hazem on Friday. The Dammam side has racked up six points out of six despite the absence of captain Jordan Henderson through illness. Swedish striker Robin Quaison scored for a second consecutive game, firing home from the right corner of the area. Vitinho extended the lead seven minutes after the break.

Al-Shabab, in contrast, are still looking for their first win after a 3-1 defeat at Al-Wehda. Along the way, the six-time champions missed two penalties and have only a single point to their name after two games.

The action continues on Saturday with Al-Hilal set to unveil new superstar signing Neymar ahead of their game against Al-Fayha. Champions Al-Ittihad, who like Al-Hilal began their season with a win, take on Al-Tai, while Al-Raed travel to Abha.

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