Malcom the hero as Al Hilal take huge step toward RSL title

Malcom scored a sensational solo winner as Al Hilal came from a goal down to secure a 2-1 victory at Al Ahli and take a major step to being crowned RSL champions.  

With the game barely a minute old, the RSL league leaders crafted their first chance of note when Al Ahli failed to clear away Renan Lodi’s long throw into the box. Brazilian attacker Malcom caught the ball on the volley, but his left-footed strike flew well over the bar. 

Soon after, Al Hilal created another chance as Ruben Neves whipped in a low free-kick that went through a crowd of players, then falling to Michael on the right wing. 

The angle was certainly against the Brazilian, but that didn't stop him from launching a fierce shot towards the goal. Thankfully for Al Ahli, home goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was equal to the effort. 

Despite not creating much, it was Al Ahli who surged ahead right on the half hour, courtesy of an uncharacteristic error from Al Hilal goalkeeper Yassine Bounou. 

Franck Kessie surged up the pitch to find Al Ahli captain Riyad Mahrez, who played in Allan Saint-Maximin on the left. A swift turn of pace from the French winger and a powerful long-range strike caught Bono off guard, with the shot parrying off the Moroccan.

Al Buraikan was quickest to react, the Saudi Arabian striker poking home from a few yards for his 12th RSL goal in Al Ahli colours this season – and 16th overall.

Al Hilal, unbeaten in the RSL this campaign, searched for a leveller as the half came to a close. First, good work from Michael picked out Aleksandar Mitrovic at the back post but, having got the better of marker Roger Ibanez, the Serbian’s header soared over the bar. 

Then, compatriot Sergej Milinkovic-Savic found a pocket of space on the edge of the box to collecty Saud Abdulhamid’s cut-back, however his poked effort deflected and hit the side netting.

Understandably, it was greeted with loud cheers from the Al Hilal faithful, who thought the ball had crept into the back of the net. 

However, Al Ahli thought they had gone 2-0 up through a moment of magic from Mahrez, who left Lodi on the turf after cutting back before passing to Al Buraikan for a tap-in. The joy, though, was soon extinguished by the official’s flag. 

Six minutes after the restart, Al Hilal reeled Al Ahli back in. Malcolm stood up the corner from the left, and Mitrovic did the rest, out-jumping Abdulbasit Hindi to head home the ball. It marked the prolific striker's 24th goal of the RSL campaign.

Despite the referee going to the monitor to review his decision, the goal stood, and Al HIlal had much-needed parity - much to the delight of the diehard visiting fans in attendance at the King Abdullah Sports City. 

Desperate to make amends, Hindi came close for Al Ahli just after the hour. Mahrez whipped in a dangerous free-kick onto the head of the Saudi Arabian, although his effort flew well over the bar. 

With the game coming to a frenetic close, both sides traded chances to score a winner. For Al Ahli, Saint-Maximin clipped a perfect ball into the path of Firmino, only for the left-footed strike from the hosts’ captain drifting over the crossbar. 

Not long after, Al Hilal thought they had a goal when Ali Al Bulayhi nodded in Abdulhamid’s lofted cross. However, the veteran defender was denied by the offside flag.

With 89 minutes on the clock, a moment of individual magic from Malcom settled the contest. Gathering the ball in the centre circle, the Brazilian surged through the middle of the pitch and skipped around Al Ahli defenders. He then calmy slid the ball past Mendy for a 14th goal of his debut RSL campaign. 

Al Hilal sealed a 23rd consecutive RSL victory to move back to 12 points clear of second-placed Al Nassr at the summit. It means the Riyadh side need only one point against bottom side Al Hazem on Saturday to claim the title.