Firmino double downs Al Tai, spoils shared in Qassim

Firmino at the double as Al Ahli brush aside Al Tai

Roberto Firmino scored a brace of headers as third placed Al Ahli bounced back from a shock 3-2 defeat against Al Okhdood last weekend in some style as they swatted away relegation candidates Al Tai 4-1 on Saturday.

The Jeddah side showed their intentions early at the Prince Abdulaziz bin Musa'ed Stadium in Ha'il as midfielder Mohammed Al Majhad wound up a long distance strike with the game just two minutes old. Al Ahli laid siege to the Al Tai goal for long periods of the first half, Riyad Mahrez drilled an effort from inside the box which was pushed away by Al Tai keeper Victor Braga. The ball was quickly recycled to Allan Saint-Maximin at the back post who spurned his header from close range. 

Franck Kessie also had a perfect header that looked to be flying into the back of the net, only to be denied by the flying palm of Braga, while Firmino also got in on the act and had an acrobatic overhead kick fly just wide after the half hour mark. 

For all their attacking dominance and possession, Al Ahli couldn't make it count and so Al Tai made them pay with a moment of individual magic from Bernard Mensah. After picking up the ball deep in his own half, the Ghanaian surged forward after beating three Al Ahli defenders, he calmly rolled the ball into the bottom corner to send the home support into raptures. 

The final act of the first half saw Al Ahli draw level. Mahrez provided the clipped cross and Firmino nodded the ball into the turf before it slid into the bottom corner.

On the hour mark, Al Ahli took the lead from the head of Firmino. Mahrez drilled in a corner to the near post and Feras Al buraikan flicked the ball to the back post leaving the Brazilian unmarked to nod home from close range. 

Al Ahli continued to press and put the contest out of sight with two goals in the final eight minutes of the contest. First, Mahrez added to his assist with a well taken goal from the edge of the box which nestled into the corner.

Fresh from leading Cote d’Ivoire to African Cup of Nations glory, midfielder Kessie popped up with a looping header for the fourth to secure a deserved victory for Matthias Jaissle’s team. 

Relief for Ricardo as Al Hazem and Al Khaleej share the spoils

Al Hazem defender Paulo Ricardo scored an own goal and an equaliser to help his side pick up a vital 1-1 draw against Al Khaleej on Saturday evening. It was an eventful evening for the Brazilian who turned the ball into his own net just after the half hour mark before making amends with a towering header in the second half. 

The home side had the better of the early exchanges, with playmaker Toze dutifully creating in the final third of the pitch, his smart pass to Vina resulted in a stinging shot which was grabbed by Al Khaleej keeper Ibrahim Sehic. The bottom side in the RSL continued to press and should have been ahead had Muhammed Badamosi not planted his header wide from a Toze corner. 

Disaster struck for Ricardo and Al Hazem moments later. Left-back Pedro Rebocho knocked in a dangerous cross which on first inspection looked like it came off the head of Al Khaleej defender Lisandro Lopez who wheeled away in celebration. On second viewing the flicked header from the Argentinian came off Ricardo and nestled into the net.

Ricardo completed his redemption act in the 52nd minute. Toze curled in a delicious free-kick and the Al Hazem defender leapt high to head the ball into the turf and out of the reach of keeper Sehic.

Al Khaleej thought they won a penalty moments later to edge ahead, however VAR intervened and after a quick review the referee deemed that Fabio Martins was not fouled in the box. Whilst the ever influential Toze thought he had edged Al Hazem ahead as he cracked a ferocious strike from outside the box, only to be denied by Sehic who got down well at the near post.

The Al Khaleej keeper was called into action in the final moments of the half to deny substitute Nawaf Al Habashi who broke from deep in his own half, but the Saudi midfielder ran out of steam as Al Hazem picked up a point in their quest for survival, much to the relief of Ricardo.