Rakitic's dream debut, Al Okhdood upset Al Ahli, and Cordea rescues Al Tai

Dream debut for Rakitic as Al Shabab pick up the win at Damac

Ivan Rakitic marked his Roshn Saudi League bow with a goal to give Al Shabab a 1-0 win away at Damac on Friday evening.

In a first half low on chances, the biggest opportunity fell to Yannick Carrasco, who twisted and turned in the Damac penalty area only for his snapshot from close range to be parried by opposition goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba.

At the other end, Damac attacker Georges-Kevin N'Koudou set the tone for the second half, the Cameroonian breaking down the left wing before smashing his effort well over the bar.

Teammate Abdelkader Bedrane then had a free header at the back post, but the Algerian defender could not convert when he most probably should have done much better.

The complexion of the contest changed just after the hour mark, when Damac left-back Sanousi Hawsawi was shown a second yellow for a rash challenge on Carrasco, reducing the home side to 10 men. Cosmin Contra’s protestations earned the Damac manager a yellow card.

From there, Al Shabab grew in confidence and started creating chances. January signing Vitinho found the run of Carrasco, but Zeghba easily gathered the shot from the Belgian winger. Rakitic, who until then had been on the edges of the match, produced a deft flick into the path of Carrasco, who was unable to get his shot away.

However, with 82 minutes on the clock, Rakitic found his mark with a stunning strike from the edge of the box. Musab Al Juwayr shuttled the ball to the Croatian, who unleashed a right-footed shot that just eluded Zeghba.

There was still time for substitute Abdulla Radif to put Al Shabab out of sight, but the Saudi Arabian striker spurned his one-on-one opportunity.

The win, though, will be a timely boost for Al Shabab and new boss Vitor Pereira ahead of their derby clash against Al Nassr next weekend.

Al Okhdood get the better of Al Ahli in five-goal thriller

Al Okhdood grabbed a statement 3-2 win against high-flying Al Ahli on Friday evening thanks to the head of veteran attacker Leandre Tawamba.

It was the visitors who started impressively at Prince Hathloul Bin Abdulaziz Sport City Stadium, as Gabri Vega blazed a shot over the bar from distance, while Roger Ibanez came close with a looping header that was tipped over by Al Okhdood goalkeeper Paulo Vitor. 

However, for all of Al Ahli's enterprise, it was Al Okhdood who opened the scoring on 25 minutes. Midfielder Alex Collado kept surging forward, and the Spaniard lashed a shot towards goal, which rebounded off Ibanez and landed in the Al Ahli net.

Just seven minutes later, Al Ahli were level. Winger Allan Saint-Maximin whipped in a ball from the right, which landed on the knee of Al Okhdood defender Solomon Kvirkvelia and the ball ricocheted off the post and into the goal.  

The hosts regained the lead minutes before half-time, this time Collado turning provider with a perfect assist for Hamad Al Mansour.

After diligently switching the ball into the path of the right-back, the Saudi Arabian needed only two touches to launch a sizzling half volley that wrong-footed Al Ahli keeper Edouard Mendy. 

Al Ahli seemed stunned into a response and found themselves level just before the break. Riyad Mahrez pushed into the penalty area and was clumsily hauled down by Andrei Burca.

Former Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino then stepped up and slammed the ball home from the spot for his fourth goal of the RSL campaign. 

Just before the hour, Kvirkvelia made up for his own goal with a telling assist as Al Okhdood went 3-2 up against the run of play. A long throw was flicked on by the Georgian and into the path of Tawamba, who was left unmarked in the area to head his team into the lead. 

Al Ahli desperately tried to get back into the match, with Firmino swiping the ball in the Al Okhdood area, but Vitor gladly collected. The encounter broke down somewhat in the closing stages, with four yellow cards being dished out, including two to Ibanez – the Al Ahli defender was sent off in stoppage time. 

Cordea's stoppage-time strike hands Al Tai share of the points

Andrei Cordea struck deep in second-half stoppage time as strugglers Al Tai picked up a vital point in their quest to beat the drop away at Al Wehda on Friday evening. 

Odion Ighalo thought he had opened the scoring in the 63rd minute when the Nigerian striker latched onto a long ball from Al Wehda goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi and calmly tapped the ball into the bottom corner.

However, VAR intervened to rule Ighalo had strayed offside, much to the relief of the Al Tai backline. 

It wouldn't be long, though, until Al Wehda opened the scoring, as Moroccan Faycal Fajr whipped in a perfect corner to compatriot Jawad El Yamiq, who launched a fizzing right footed strike into the back of the net.

Ighalo did think he had his customary goal, when eight minutes from time, he calmly controlled the ball, turned and rifled a shot into the back of the net. Yet again, VAR ruled the goal out for offside - this time by the finest of margins. 

Al Tai pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages, with Adeeb Al Haizan rattling the post with a header while Marko Dugandzic’s effort was gathered by goalkeeper Mohamedi.

The leveller, though, eventually came in the eighth minute of stoppage time. A long throw from Robert Bauer was cleared but dropped to Cordea, whose first-time, left-footed strike skimmed off the turf and into the back of the net. 

Al Wehda pushed for a winner deep into second-half stoppage time and really should have sealed a 2-1 win. Australian international Craig Goodwin found strike partner Ighalo, but his effort thundered high and wide when it looked easier to score.