Serbian duo settle Riyadh derby

A header from Sergei Milinkovic-Savic and a late double from Aleksandar Mitrovic earned Al Hilal a 3-0 win over Al Nassr in the first Riyadh Derby of the season to open a seven-point gap at the top of the Roshn Saudi League. 

It was the show of the Serbian stars for Al Hilal after Milinkovic-Savic headed the table toppers in front in the 64th minute. In the final two minutes, Mitrovic nodded home Salem Al Dawsari’s corner before turning the defence inside out and tucking away a memorable derby triumph.

For the vast majority of the 50,561 fans who began filling the King Fahd International Sports City some four hours before kick off, on the last game it hosts before being closed for renovations for the next couple of years – it was a result to celebrate. And it earned a league lead that will be difficult for other teams to overturn.

In the first seven minutes, Al Hilal could have opened the scoring three times. Mitrovic drove a left footed shot just wide, Al Dawsari blasted over from close range when well placed, and then did exactly the same minutes later after Al Nassr goalkeeper Nawaf Al Aqidi spilled a cross.

Al Nassr recovered and missed a superb chance to open the scoring following an outrageous piece of skill from Talisca. The No.94 flicked the ball over his head with his back to goal but the resultant dink over Yassine Bounou was lifted just over the bar.

At the other end, Al Aqidi breathed a sigh of relief when Mitrovic blocked his attempted clearance only for Michael’s resultant snap shot to fall into his hands on the goal line.

The game settled after the initial flurry of opportunities, but a series of superb one-touch moves from Al Nassr through the Al Hilal midfield then presented Cristiano Ronaldo with his first sniff of goal. Bounou, however, comfortably saved the left-footed shot from outside the box.

Al Nassr, who lost Alex Telles to injury shortly before half-time, had an opportunity at the start of the second half but Talisca’s shot was deflected over.

In the 64th minute, just moments after a mazy run from Al Dawari on the left nearly resulted in a goal, Al Hilal took the lead. Saud Abdulhamid’s swinging cross from the right was met by the forehead of Serbian international star Milinkovic-Savic, a big-money summer signing from Lazio, who directed the ball into the far corner. And how the Al Hilal fans celebrated the opening goal.

Ronaldo thought he had equalised in the 74th minute but his volleyed goal was ruled out for the tightest of offside decisions.

As Al Nassr chased an equaliser, Mitrovic struck not once but twice. First Al Dawsari’s wicked inswinging corner from the right was powerfully headed in after 89 minutes – though Ronaldo claimed to the referee he was pushed. Then the striker side footed his 13th Roshn Saudi League goal of the season in the 90th minute to complete the 3-0 triumph.

Al Nassr thought they’d reduced the deficit, but a headed goal was ruled out for offside. Talisca’s free kick was then palmed away with the last action of the match to leave the Al Hilal fans – and especially the Blue Power ultras – singing loud and proud. It was three goals, seven points, and one big Riyadh Derby victory. 


Al Hilal (4-2-3-1): 37. Bounou; 66. Abdulhamid, 3. Koulibaly, 5. Al Bulayhi, 2. Al Burayk (4. Al Dawsari 84); 22. Milinkovic-Savic; 8. Neves, 29. Al Dawsari 7(Al Faraj 90), 77. Malcolm, 96. Michael (28. Kanno 77); 9. Mitrovic. Substitutes: 31. Al Wotayan, 11. Al Shehri, 14. Al Hamdan, 26. Al Malki, 43. Al Juwayr 70. Jahfali. 

Goals: Milinkovic-Savic 64, Mitrovic 89, 90 Yellow: Mitrovic, Al Bulayhi

Al Nassr (4-2-3-1): 44. Al Aqidi; 2. Al Ghannam, 78. Lajami, 27. Laporte, 15. Telles (23. Yahya 37); 77. Brozovic, 6. Fofana (29. Ghareeb 72); 94. Talisca, 25. Otavio, 10. Mane; 7. Ronaldo. Substitutes not used: 36. Al Najjar, 3. Madu, 4. Al Fatil, 8. Al Sulaiheem, 14. Al Nai, 16. Marran, 17. Al Khaibari.

Goals: Yellow: Otavio, Yahya