Toko Ekambi the hero as Abha edge out Al Okhdood
Abha picked up back-to-back wins for the first time in the 2023-24 RSL season with a 3-2 win over Al Okhdood on Saturday evening. Karl Toko Ekambi’s goal twenty minutes from time proved to be the difference as Youssef Manai continued his perfect start in the Abha dugout.
The visitors could have made a dream start had Leandre Tawamba’s lofted volley not skipped just wide with the contest only 30 seconds old. Al Okhdoud could have further compounded their impressive start as Saviour Godwin timed his run to perfection and beat his man only to launch a shot into the side netting.
Abha duly punished Al Okhdood as former Poland international Grzegorz Krychowiak was the quickest to react at the back post and produced a fine diving header to hand the hosts the lead twenty minutes into the contest. Six minutes later Andrei Burca thundered a shot into the top corner to hand the Najran-based side a deserved leveller.
In truth, Okhdood dominated proceedings in the first half at the Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Stadium and their hard work was rewarded when Tawamba nodded a header into the path of Musleh Al Shaikh and his deft flick handed Okhdood the lead.
The shape of the contest changed on the hour mark as Okhdood defender Solomon Kvirkvelia acrobatically turned the ball into his own net. Abha pushed for a winner and the stage was set for former Lyon striker Toko Ekambi who confirmed the victory on the counter by calmly rolling the ball into the bottom corner to seal the win for Abha.
Ronaldo the difference as Al Nassr brush aside Al Khaleej
Cristiano Ronaldo provided a goal and an assist as Al Nassr stretched their undefeated run to ten RSL games with a routine 2-0 win over Al Khaleej.
Ronaldo was at his mercurial best at Al Awwal Park on Saturday evening and a long-distance free-kick which Al Khaleej keeper Marwan Al Haidari gathered easily set the tone for the Portuguese icon. Moments later Ronaldo picked up the ball on the edge of the box, faked two defenders and launched a blistering shot that swirled into the bottom corner, for his 12th goal in 11 RSL starts.
Al Khaleej took some time to get into the contest but came close to scoring an equaliser just on the half-hour mark. A long ball was lofted up to Egyptian striker Mohamed Sherif who struck the ball on the half volley, but it flew just over the Al Nassr crossbar.
The visitors started the second half strongly as Seed Al Hamsal skipped through the Al Nassr midfield before unleashing a long-range strike that had keeper Nawaf Al Aqidi scrambling. However that all changed on the hour mark as Ronaldo had a decisive say in the second goal of the game.
Alex Telles clipped a ball deep into the box, Ronaldo instinctively hit the ball across the box and Aymeric Laporte was left the simplest of finishes for his first RSL goal of the season. The result leaves Al Nassr four points behind league leaders Al Hilal.
Al Ettifaq start life in their new stadium with a frustrating draw with rock-bottom Al Raed
Al Ettifaq opened up their brand-new stadium with a 0-0 stalemate with bottom side Al Raed. Expectations were high amongst the Ettifaq faithful that they could pick up a win at their new home but were left frustrated by a resolute Al Raed backline.
Steven Gerrard’s side dominated the contest with 66% of the possession and an incredible 19 shots to just two shots from the visitors Al Raed. This was compounded on the 38th minute when a slick passing move eventually fell to Georginio Wijnaldum. The rasping strike from the Dutch midfielder was pushed away by keeper André Moreira.
On a rare breakaway in the first half, Raed striker Karim El Berkaoui arrowed a shot that flew just over the bar but it proved to be the only chance of note for the visitors.
Demarai Gray registered the best chance of the contest just after the hour mark. The Jamaican international reacted quickly in the box to take down the ball with a neat touch but his shot skimmed just wide of the left-hand post.
Earlier in the week it was confirmed that striker Moussa Dembélé was set for a few weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury and it was clear from tonight’s showing that Al Ettifaq desperately need the French attacker back quickly if they are to make a credible push for a top-four finish.