Al Hilal edge seven-goal thriller, Ronaldo nets another hat-trick for Al Nassr

Al Hilal prevail in seven-goal thriller with Al Shabab

Roshn Saudi League leaders Al Hilal had the woodwork to thank as they stretched their world-record winning streak to 30 games by coming out on top of an epic 4-3 encounter with local rivals Al Shabab.

It was Al Shabab who made the perfect start on Saturday evening, the opening the scoring in the third minute when Musab Aljuwayr curled his shot from the edge of the Al Hilal penalty area past goalkeeper Yassine Bono. Playing against his parent club, Aljuwayr chose not to celebrate.

Al Hilal responded well, quickly levelling from the penalty spot after Al Shabab goalkeeper Mohammed Al Absi charged off his line to take down Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbian stepped up to tuck away his 21st goal of the RSL season.

Within seven minutes, Mitrovic and Al Hilal had their second. Compatriot Sergej Milinkovic-Savic showed a turn of pace before playing a delightful ball across the byline to leave Mitrovic with a simple tap-in.

Firmly in control, Al Hilal went 3-1 up five minutes from half-time. The visitors patiently reworked a corner, allowing Ruben Neves to curl the ball into the box. Milinkovic-Savic stole in to score his 10th league goal of the season from close range.

Just before the hour, Al Hilal thought they wrapped up the points with a counter-attack goal of the highest quality. Winger Michael did well to keep the ball in play and pushed forward from the left wing, before passing to Salem Al Dawsari at the back post. The reigning AFC Player of the Year supplied a deft touch to put his team 4-1 up.

Seven minutes later, though, Al Shabab mounted their fightback with a moment of individual magic. Left-back Hussain Al Sibyani received the ball on the wing, beat four Al Hilal players before arrowing a shot into the bottom corner.

Al Shabab set up a grandstand finish in the 78th minute as defender Romain Saiss stuck a 35-yard free-kick into the top corner. The home side were in the ascendancy and, late on, had a chance to complete an almighty comeback. Yet substitute Nawaf Al Saadi measured a shot that beat Bono, only for his effort to clip the underside of the crossbar.

Al Hilal survived the onslaught to maintain their sizeable 12-point lead at the summit. They face 15th-placed Al Okhdood on Tuesday evening.

Ronaldo nabs another treble as Al Nassr cruise past Al Tai

Cristiano Ronaldo hit a second-half hat-trick for second-placed Al Nassr to rack up a 5-1 win against relegation-threatened Al Tai at Al Awwal Park.

It took the hosts only 20 minutes to make their breakthrough, when Abdulrahman Ghareeb laid the ball to Portuguese teammate Otavio, whose cross-cum-shot evaded the head of teammate Marcelo Brozovic, to nestle neatly into the corner. 

However, Al Tai drew level only two minutes later. Virgil Misidjan swivelled on the edge of the Al Nassr penalty area and arched his right-footed strike into the back of net. In the process Misidjan became the first Al Tai player to score in both home and away games against the Riyadh club.

The Dutch forward’s celebrations were cut short, though, when he was sent off just after the half hour. Misidjan collided with Al Nassr goalkeeper David Ospina, VAR intervened, and the Al Tai man was shown second yellow card. It left the visitors to battle on for the remaining hour with 10 men.

Al Nassr made their numerical advantage count deep into first-half stoppage time. Forward Sadio Mane spun and clipped a ball to the back post, leaving Ghareeb to plant his header into the turf and then into the net.

The second half quickly became the Ronaldo show as the Portuguese superstar, the 2023-24 RSL’s current top scorer, added his 24th, 25th and 26th goals of the season.

First, Mane picked up his second assist of the evening, with Ronaldo instinctively turning inside the Al Tai area and finding the bottom corner. Three minutes later, Ronaldo pounced on the opposition’s failure to clear and sent a half-volley flying inside the back post.

The Al Nassr captain was never going to be denied a hat-trick and grabbed his second three-goal haul of the season in the 87th minute. Substitute Abdulmajeed Al Sulaiheem stood up the cross to the back post, inviting Ronaldo to produce his trademark leap to head home the ball.

The result maintains Al Nassr’s 12-point deficit to frontrunners Al Hilal, while Al Tai remain in the relegation zone on 22 points.

Tello inspires Al Fateh to vital win at Al Wehda

Cristian Tello scored twice as Al Fateh completed an impressive turnaround to arrest a six-game winless streak with a 3-2 victory at Al Wehda.

The hosts showed their intentions inside the first minute, when Anselmo picked out Craig Goodwin, however the Australian lacked composure in the vital moment.

Soon enough, Al Fateh crafted their first chance of note, as Mourad Batna’s long-distance free-kick was tipped over by goalkeeper Munir Mohamedi.

Just before the half hour, Al Fateh deservedly opened the scoring. Tello linked up with strike partner Batna and, while his effort was initially pushed away by Mohamedi, the ball eventually came to Tello at the back post. He lashed home his eighth RSL goal of the season.

Al Wehda pushed for a response, with Moroccan Faycal Fajr finding Abdulaziz Noor with a raking pass, only for the Saudi Arabian to fall short with the finish with the goal at his mercy.

Eventually, though, Al Wehda’s patience finally paid off. Right-back Saeed Al Mowalad made a surging run and played a dangerous ball into the box, where Goodwin was on hand to lay the ball into the path of Anselmo for the Brazilian to sweep in his third league goal of the campaign.

Just six minutes into the second half, Anselmo picked up his second goal of the evening. Noor did well to chase down a lost cause on the left wing before providing a perfect outside-of-the-boot cross to striker Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian’s header came off the post, but Anselmo was the first on the scene to tap in from close range.

Slaven Bilic’s side have been on a poor run of form lately but showed plenty of character to score twice in five minutes to completely turn around the clash.

The first goal came from a rapid counter-attack, Tello and Lucas Zelarayan trading passes before the Spaniard found himself with time at the edge of the Al Wehda area. The former FC Barcelona man’s shot left Mohamedi with no chance.

Moments later, Al Fateh edged ahead. Tello and Zelarayan linked up again, but this time the Armenian international clipped a ball into the box. Substitute Saad Al Shurafa timed his run to perfection, flicking home his header.

However, Al Fateh were reduced to 10 men deep into stoppage time when substitute Nooh Al Mousa picked up a red card for a rash challenge on Ighalo.

Still, the side from Al Ahsa picked up an important victory to jump to 8th in the standings and ease the pressure on Bilic. Al Wehda, meanwhile, sit 13th.

Al Riyadh and Abha share points

Al Riyadh and Abha had to make do with a 1-1 draw in a keenly fought encounter on Saturday evening.

Al Riyadh striker Andre Gray thought he had opened the scoring early on with a fine outside-of-the-boot strike, however the Jamaican international was denied by an offside flag.

However, it was the visitors who struck first, Francois Kamano finding the back of the net in the 27th minute. Al Riyadh failed to clear a corner, leaving the Guinean to meet a loose ball with a fierce volley that flew through a crowd of Al Riyadh defenders before beating rival goalkeeper Martín Campana.

After an extensive VAR check for offside, the goal was eventually given. It marked Kamano’s first RSL goal of the season.

The second half saw the hosts slowly start to dominate. Slick build-up play made its way to Saleh Al Abbas on the edge of the Abha penalty area, with first-time drive tipped over the crossbar by goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Al Abbas was in the thick of the action, and spurned a second chance 10 minutes later, the Saudi Arabian failing to connect with a flick-on from Gray. Indeed, the pair would combine moments later for Al Riyadh to get back into the contest.

With the ball cut back to Gray in the Abha area, he misplaced his shot into the path of Al Abbas, who took a touch before rolling the ball into the bottom corner. Initially, the linesman flagged offside but, after a VAR check, the goal was given.

In a tight encounter at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, Abha crafted the best chance to edge ahead in the final 15 minutes. A well-worked free-kick saw Fahad Al Jumayah drift a dangerous ball into the Al Riyadh area, only for midfielder Ziyad Al Sahafi to plant his header onto the outside of the post.

Ultimately, both sides will most probably view the result as a useful point as they each fight for safety. Al Riyadh move up to 14th place on 25 points, while Abha stay 17th – but, crucially, go level on points with Al Tai on 22 points.