Al Hilal bounce back from Asian exit, Al Shabab claim double over Al Ittihad

Ruthless Al Shabab put Al Ittihad to the sword

Al Shabab showcased a counter-attacking masterclass as they registered their first home-and-away double over Al Ittihad for the first time since the 2009-10 season with a 3-1 victory away on Friday night.

It didn't take too long for the visitors to create their first chance of note when midfielder Moteb Al Harbi crashed the upright early on with a fierce 30-yard strike. However, replays showed Al Ittihad goalkeeper Abdullah Al Mayouf got a vital hand to deny the 24-year old.

Al Ittihad, the reigning Roshn Saudi League champions, eventually found their stride, and perhaps should have scored on the counter just before the half-hour mark. Unfortunately, Jota’s strike was blocked just before the line by Al Shabab captain Romain Saiss.

The Moroccan defender came up with a carbon copy intervention a few minutes later, this time to deny Romarinho. Al Ittihad concluded the first half on the front foot, with teenage striker Talal Haji flashing a shot over, prompting a concerned look from manager Marcelo Gallardo on the sidelines.

With the second half barely two minutes old, it was Al Shabab who took the lead on the counter. Yannick Carrasco was unleashed on the left wing, and he pushed into the Al Ittihad area before centring. Habib Diallo was on hand to tap in his sixth RSL goal of the season.

After a VAR review, the goal was given; Carrasco had remained onside by the finest of margins.

Al Ittihad, though, found themselves back in the game in the 58th minute. A quick corner was played to Saleh Al Amri, who clipped the ball into the box for the unmarked substitute Abderrazak Hamdallah, and the Moroccan headed home for his 19th league goal of the campaign.

Backed as ever by some vocal support in the stands, Al Ittihad would have expected to push on and get the win. Yet, eight minutes from time, Al Shabab went ahead.

Hamad Al Yami clipped a ball to the back post for Diallo, his initial shot was blocked by Ahmed Hegazi, only for Al Shabab substitute Carlos Junior to be quickest to react and lash the ball home from short range. It marked a third goal in two RSL outings for the Brazilian.

Al Shabab then wrapped up the points deep into stoppage time. Breaking from an Al Ittihad corner, the away side surged forward, with Diallo picking up the ball on the left wing. His cross then found midfielder Musab Al Juwayr, who guided the ball into the corner to cap off a memorable win for the Riyadh club.

Al Shabab are now undefeated in their past four RSL outings and stay ninth place in the standings. As for Al Ittihad, they remain in fifth, two points behind third-placed Al Ahli, and thus firmly in the hunt for a place in next season’s AFC Champions League Elite.

Al Hilal bounce back style from AFC Champions League heartache

Al Hilal dusted themselves off from the disappointment of exiting the AFC Champions League midweek with a 3-1 home win against Al Fateh.

The RSL league leaders missed out narrowly on a place in the AFC Champions League final earlier this week after losing 5-4 on aggregate to UAE side Al Ain, with head coach Jorge Jesus demanding a reaction.

The Portuguese’s side didn't disappoint and came close to opening the scoring as Ruben Neves picked out Nasser Al Dawsari, the header from the Saudi Arabian winger flew just wide.

Al Hilal continued to press and just before the half hour came close again. This time, Saud Abdulhamid pushed ahead from right-back and his cross fell to Mohammed Kanno, only for his overhead kick to fly over the bar.

Al Fateh had found chances at a premium but took the lead on 57 minutes through Lucas Zelarayan. Cristian Tello picked out his strike partner, who drilled the ball towards goal. While his effort was initially caught by Al Hilal goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, the ball squirmed under the Moroccan’s body and rolled into the net.

However, a minute later, Al Hilal drew level. Nasser Al Dawsari drifted a cross to the Al Fateh back post, which was headed towards the goal by Michael. The visitors thought they had cleared away the danger, but goal line technology confirmed that the ball had crossed the line.

Al Hilal eventually took the lead on 74 minutes from the penalty spot. After an extensive VAR check, Mohammed Al Qahtani was judged to have been scythed down in the Al Fateh area. Ever dependable, Neves stepped up to drill the ball into the bottom corner for his third RSL goal of the campaign.

Then, in the 14th minute of stoppage time, Al Hilal put the result beyond doubt. Central defender Ali Al Bulayhi needed three chances, but eventually turned in from close range to seal the victory.

In racking up a 21st consecutive RSL win Al Hilal, still unbeaten in the league this season, restored their 12-point lead at the summit. As for Al Fateh, they drop to seventh. 

Pedro seals it at the death as Al Taawoun defeat Damac

Brazilian striker Joao Pedro struck in the 89th minute as Al Taawoun stayed on track for a place in the AFC Champions League Elite with a gritty 1-0 win at Damac.

With only 12 minutes on the clock, Damac thought they opened the scoring when Algerian defender Farouk Chafai got his head onto Nicolae Stanciu’s free-kick. However, the goal was quickly ruled out for offside.

Stanciu was causing plenty of problems on the wing and provided a perfect looped cross to fellow midfielder Domagoj Antolic at the back post. However, the Croatian headed just wide when, on reflection, it looked easier to score.

For the second time in the contest, Damac had the ball in the net in the first half after Abdelkader Bedrane headed home from yet another Stanciu free-kick. Again, though, Damac was denied by the offside flag.

Al Taawoun’s goal was living a charmed life, with Damac missing another huge chance to edge ahead. This time, a mistake from goalkeeper Mailson was seized upon by Antolic, who quickly passed the ball to Chafai, only for him to turn his effort wide in the ensuing scramble. 

The complexion of the encounter changed in the 88th minute after VAR intervened to send off Damac defender Ahmad Al Zain for a rash challenge on opposing winger Mohammed Al Kuwaykibi.

That mistake proved crucial, as Al Taawoun struck the winner a minute later. Substitute Ibrahim Al Shuayl played the ball to the back post, which was played across the area by Al Kuwaykibi. He might not have known too much about it, but Pedro was the right man in the right place to turn in his 10th goal of the RSL season. 

With the win, Al Taawoun sit fourth in the table, a solitary point behind Al Ahli and a place in next season’s AFC Champions League Elite. Damac, meanwhile, stay eighth.