Al Hilal maintain undefeated start with late show against Al Taawoun
A trademark Aleksandar Mitrovic header and a stunning free-kick from Mohamed Kanno meant league leaders Al Hilal maintained their undefeated start to the season with a hard earned 2-0 win against Al Taawoun.
The first half was a tight contest at the King Fahd International Stadium. Al Taawoun looked compact defensively and looked to open the scoring on the counter-attack. Winger Mateus Castro was guilty of missing a header from close range, whilst young defender Muath Faqeehi’s outside of the boot strike sailed over the bar all within the opening half hour of the contest.
Al Hilal thought they had opened the scoring just before the break, however, VAR intervened to deny Mitrovic’s header for a foul on Al Taawoun defender Andrei Girotto. The home side ramped up the pressure after the break and believed they should have been awarded a penalty for a handball by defender Abdulmalik Al Oyayari. After a VAR check the penalty was denied, much to the frustration of the Serbian striker.
With 81 minutes on the clock Mitrovic’s hard work was finally rewarded as he scored for his fourth consecutive RSL game. Malcom provided the cross from a set piece and a stooping header from the former Fulham man handed Al Hilal the lead. Al Hilal wrapped up the points in real style as Mohamed Kanno curled in a free-kick from 25-yards out in stoppage time to rack up a fifth consecutive RSL win for the league leaders.
Benzema hat-trick hands Al Ittihad first RSL win in six
Karim Benzema hit a first-ever RSL hat-trick as Al Ittihad started life without coach Nuno Espirito Santo with a 4-2 win over Abha on Friday evening. With interim coach Hassan Khalifa looking on from the sidelines; Al Ittihad produced some free flowing football in the second half to put Abha to the sword.
Interestingly it was the away side who forced the issue in the first half. Abha striker Francois Kamano saw his long-range effort fly past Marcelo Grohe’s goal. Al Ittihad opened the scoring with a penalty as Karim Benzema was chopped down in the box, VAR played a part to reverse the initial decision made by the referee and the French striker was clinical from the spot.
Karl Toko Ekambi had Abha level seven minutes after the restart, in a moment to forget for Ittihad keeper Grohe who parried the ball to the Cameroonian who beat him from close range.
Al Ittihad took the lead seconds later, thanks to a world-class assist from Benzema who pirouetted the ball into the path of Igor Coronado who arrowed a shot into the top to give the Jeddah side a 2-1 lead.
Coronado returned the favor to Benzema on the 66th minute as the French striker broke away and calmly slot the ball past a hapless Ciprian Tataruşanu in the Abha goal. The hat-trick was secured when Coronado provided a second assist in as many minutes to his strike partner with a deft pass, which was sealed with a simple tap in from the Ballon d'Or winner. Abha pushed to get back into the contest and grabbed a late consolation thanks to a planted header from Fahad Al Jumayah, but Al Ittihad had more than enough to register their first win in six RSL outings.