Al Ettifaq snap winless run, Al Shabab held to stalemate at Al Tai

Al Ettifaq edge Al Riyadh for much-needed win

Karl Toko Ekambi’s first-half goal ensured Al Ettifaq snapped a three-match winless run in the Roshn Saudi League as they eked out a 1-0 victory over Al Riyadh on Saturday evening.

It was the visitors, though, who created the first opening of note at the Al Ettifaq Club Stadium when Al Riyadh left-back Abdulelah Al Khaibari stabbed the ball towards striker Saleh Al Abbas. Fortunately for Al Ettifaq, goalkeeper Paulo Victor was quickly off his line to snuff out any danger.

With 11 minutes on the clock, Al Ettifaq opened the scoring through winter signing Toko Ekambi. Defender Jack Hendry ventured forward from deep and played a raking ball to the striker. After masterfully controlling with his left foot, Toko Ekambi swivelled and smashed the ball home with his right. A moment of magic from the Cameroonian, it marked his eighth goal of the RSL campaign.

Not after the half hour, Toko Ekambi and Al Ettifaq thought they had doubled their advantage with a close-range header. However, Al Riyadh goalkeeper Martin Campana was fouled in the build-up and the goal was disallowed.

At the other end, Al Riyadh came close to levelling as Jamaican Andre Gray saw his fierce shot creep under Victor, only for the Brazilian to quickly recover and grasp the ball as it rolled towards the goalline.

Al Ettifaq continued to dominate but couldn't quite find the goal to kill off the contest. French striker Moussa Dembele showed fine footwork to beat two Al Riyadh defenders, but frustratingly for the former Lyon man, his shot rebounded off the post.

The second half followed in much the same pattern with the Dammam side showing all the attacking intent, but not delivering in the final third when it mattered. Still, manager Steven Gerrard will be pleased that his team got back into the win column.

The victory means Al Ettifaq lie sixth in the RSL standings on 39 points. As for Al Riyadh, they sit 14th, but only three points above the relegation zone.

Honours even between Al Tai and Al Shabab in Ha’il

Al Tai picked up a useful point in their bid for safety as they held Al Shabab to a 0-0 draw on home turf.

The visitors started impressively at the Prince Abdul Aziz bin Musa'ed Stadium and could have broken the deadlock in the 15th minute. However, after Yannick Carrasco’s shot had rebounded off an Al Tai defender, Senegal striker Habib Diallo smashed a shot towards goal, forcing host goalkeeper Victor Braga into a save.

In response, Al Tai quickly crafted a chance of their own when Virgil Misidjan latched onto Rakan Shamlan’s pass. A craftily clipped shot from the Dutch forward looked to be rolling towards goal, however Al Shabab defender Nader Al Sharari was on hand to clear the danger.

Carrasco, meanwhile, was in fine form for the visitors and created plenty of problems for Al Tai. In first-half injury time, a surging run and strike from the Belgian on the angle was saved by Braga.

Just after the hour mark, Carrasco jinked around three defenders and found the back of the net with a composed finish. However, VAR intervened to highlight that Al Tai midfielder Shamlan was fouled by Riyadh Sharahili in the build-up.

Al Tai offered little in attack in the second half, but perhaps should have stolen a win with five minutes remaining. A deep corner was recycled out to the right, Abdulrahman Al Harthi knocked the ball to the back post, where club captain Alfa Semedo leapt highest to direct his header narrowly wide.

The point for Al Tai was not enough to escape the relegation zone, but they did close the gap to 15th-placed Al Okhdood to a solitary point. Al Shabab stay 10th.