Al Hilal create history, in-form Hamdallah grabs last-gasp Al Ittihad win

History for Al Hilal as leaders shut out Al Ettifaq

First-half goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Salem Al Dawsari ensured Al Hilal made a little bit of RSL history on Monday evening.

The 2-0 away win at Al Ettifaq means the league leaders have registered 14th consecutive victories, the longest winning run of any team in the competition’s record books.

Yet it was opposing captain Georginio Wijnaldum who ensured a lively start at Al Ettifaq Club Stadium. With the game barely 10 seconds old, the Dutch midfielder wound up for a long-distance strike, but Al Hilal goalkeeper Yassine Bono was more than equal to the effort.

Likewise, Al Ettifaq stopper Paulo Victor was called into action just after the 15-minute mark. First, he smothered a close-range shot from Al Hilal defender Kalidou Koulibaly, before seconds later denying the in-form Aleksandar Mitrovic. Although, on second viewing, it was clear the Serbian striker had ventured just offside.

Al Hilal began to dominate proceedings from there, with winter signing Renan Lodi blazing over the bar. Soon after, Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves hovered on the edge of the box and saw a swerving effort skim narrowly past the post after a lay-off from Al Dawsari.

Just before the half hour, some slack Al Hilal passing let Al Ettifaq in for a perfect chance, in which Karl Toko-Ekambi pounced on a loose ball and played a perfect pass to the onrushing Moussa Dembele.

With the French striking bearing down on goal, Koulibaly produced a remarkable recovery run to track back and block the shot from hosts’ No.9.

Al Hilal, though, struck with two goals to close out the first half and eventually take the spoils. First, Neves curled in a deep corner, which was emphatically met by the head of Milinkovic-Savic for his ninth goal of the RSL campaign.

Deep into stoppage time, Al Hilal doubled their advantage with a moment of magic. Lodi stepped out to win the ball and immediately passed to Mitrovic, who produced a deft flick that arced perfectly into the path of Al Dawsari.

Running at pace on the left wing, the current AFC Asian Player of the Year instinctively beat his man before finding the back of the net from close range.

Milinkovic-Savic could have easily had a second of the evening had the post not repelled his effort from outside the area that had Victor beaten.

In fairness, Al Ettifaq did have chances to reduce the deficit, chiefly through Demarai Gray, whose surge down the wing on the counter and his cut inside resulted in Bono saving his shot comfortably at the near post. Meanwhile, Toko-Ekambi powered a right-footed effort that skidded just wide.

With the win, Al Hilal have reopened their seven-point lead at the top of the table. The Riyadh giants will be hoping to stretch their record-breaking run once more when they face off against Al Ittihad in the Saudi Clasico on Friday.

Hamdallah the hero for Al Ittihad in rebound win over Al Wehda

Moroccan striker Abderrazzaq Hamdallah grabbed a brace late in the second half as Al Ittihad battled back from a goal down to secure a 2-1 win over Al Wehda at King Abdullah Sports City.

Al Ittihad, the reigning RSL champions, had the better of the early exchanges and thought they seized the lead when Karim Benzema found the back of the net.

However, VAR showed midfielder Fabinho had held back Al Wehda midfielder Waleed Bakhshwain in the build-up, and the goal was chalked off.

As so often happens in football, the opposition opens the scoring immediately after they seemed to go behind. That certainly proved the case as Odion Ighalo stole in to give Al Wehda the lead against the odds.

A quickly taken free-kick fell to Vito van Crooij, with the Dutch attacker sliding in a perfect ball to the Al Ittihad box. Ever the predator, Ighalo was in the right place at the right time to out-muscle defender Ahmed Hegazi and tap into an empty net.

Al Ittihad did think they had their leveller from the penalty spot deep in first-half stoppage time, when Hamdallah fell in the box after what looked like an elbow from defender Ali Makki.

After a lengthy VAR review, the penalty was given. Benzema stepped up, but his tame effort was pushed away by Munir Mohamedi, much to the delight of his Al Wehda teammates.

The visitors held on well throughout the second half, and could have doubled their advantage had Faycal Fajr’s effort not been well saved by Al Ittihad goalkeeper Abdullah Al Mayouf.

Al Ittihad then ramped up the pressure, and eventually Al Wehda gave way. With the encounter ticking into the 80th minute, defender Hegazi went down in the Al Wehda area and, after another VAR review, it was deemed that Jawad El Yamiq had fouled the Egyptian international.

This time, Hamdallah stepped up and showed nerves of steel as he dinked the ball down the middle for his ninth goal in seven RSL matches.

Al Ittihad defender Saad Al Mosa saw red just before stoppage time, though, for a professional foul on Al Wehda attacker Yahya Al Naji as the contest took yet another twist.

However, Marcelo Gallardo’s men were not to be denied, and found a winner in the fourth minute of injury-time to break Al Wehda hearts.

Benzema jinked down the left into the area and picked out Hamdallah, who placed the ball into an empty net to send the home support into raptures. It marked the frontman’s 15th RSL goal of the season.

Al Ittihad got a vital win to stay fifth - and warmed up perfectly for the Clasico in Matchweek 22.