Al Raed pull RSL survival within grasp, Mensah the man for Al Tai

Magic Mensah inspires Al Tai to big win against Al Fateh

Bernard Mensah scored a late brace to hand Al Tai a huge 3-1 win against Al Fateh in their quest to beat the drop from the RSL on Thursday evening.

The visitors made a dream start at the Prince Abdul Aziz bin Musa'ed Stadium, opening the scoring within three minutes.

Club captain Mohammed Al Fuhaid came up with an arching through-ball that fell into the path of Djaniny. The Cape Verdean attacker timed his run to perfection, showing good strength to bounce off the retreating Al Tai defender before clipping the ball over Victor Braga for a third goal in as many RSL games.

To their credit, Al Tai showed character to draw level in the 12th minute. Semedo provided the corner to find defender Robert Bauer free on the penalty spot, the German’s towering header crashing into the back of the net. It brought wild celebrations in the stands.

Slowly, though, Al Fateh began to dominate the ball and create plenty of chances. Salem Al Najdi was picked out on the left wing and had plenty of time to surge into the Al Tai area, only for his strike to roll past the post.

Djaniny then missed a perfect opportunity to double the visitors' advantage as he latched onto a long ball from Lucas Zelarayan. Fortunately for Al Tai, his shot blazed well over the crossbar.

At the other end, Al Tai could have pushed ahead just before the break. Andrei Cordea jinked his way into the penalty area, but his left-footed effort hit the side-netting.

Just before the hour, Al Fateh were reduced to 10 men when VAR intervened for Ali Al Zubaidi to pick up a second yellow for a cynical pull on Cordea.

Al Tai sought to make their numerical advantage count and were denied a second goal when Cordea saw his half-volley instinctively parried away by Al Fateh goalkeeper Jacob Rinne.

Still, Slaven Bilic’s men provided a threat going forward, with Al Tai goalkeeper Braga forced into a solid save to deny Djaniny on the counter-attack.

With 83 minutes on the clock, Al Tai pushed ahead. Cordea provided the out-swinging corner and Mensah planted his header out of the reach of Rinne. The Ghanaian wasn't done there, however, scoring a fine individual goal deep into stoppage-time to confirm the win.

After battling for the ball on the byline, Mensah dribbled past several Al Fateh challenges before smashing the ball into the net. His 14th goal of the RSL season may just represent the most crucial in helping Al Tai beat the drop.

The win means that the Ha’ii side move up to 14th place in the RSL standings, two places and two points from the relegation zone. 

El Berkaoui heads Al Raed to verge of RSL safety

Al Raed have all but assured their status in the RSL for next season after they secured a dramatic late 1-0 win away to Al Wehda.

Abdulaziz Noor could have easily put the home side 1-0 up within 18 minutes, when the winger showed a neat turn of pace to beat the offside trap and started to bare down on goal. Thankfully for Al Read, goalkeeper Ahmad Al Harbi was quick off his line to snuff out any danger.

Noor was at the heart of the attacking action for Al Wehda, and thought he won a penalty on the 37th minute after being pulled down by defender Mamadou Loum. Following a short VAR review, the penalty was denied, much to the relief of Al Raed manager Igor Jovicevic.

In the second half, both teams showed a little more attacking intent. Mohamed Fouzair provided cut-back to fellow attacker Amir Sayoud, but, frustratingly for the Algerian, he was unable to sort out his feet in time, and instead meekly stabbed the ball wide.

Al Raed were growing in confidence, and again went close to edging ahead. Mathias Normann drove to the edge of the Al Wehda area, skipping past two challenges before driving his shot inches over.

Moments afterwards, the side from Buraidah tried to take advantage of a long throw, when the ball dropped to Khalid Al Subaie. Yet Al Raed midfielder’s effort was well gathered by Munir Mohamedi.

Soon after, the Al Wehda goalkeeper had to be on his toes again, coming up with an instinctive save to deny Julio Tavares from close range. 

Al Raed have not secured as many victories in the RSL against one team as they have against Al Wehda (10) and had another thanks to a well-worked goal four minutes from time.

Hamad Al Jayzani whipped in a dangerous ball from the left and Karim El Berkaoui positioned himself perfectly between two defenders, leaving the Moroccan striker to nod the ball home for his 12th RSL goal of the season.

Despite being second best for most of the contest, Al Wehda spurned a golden chance to go level right at the death. The ball dropped perfectly to Vito van Crooij, who could only manage to send his effort inches wide.

The win for Al Raed means they now have a healthy five-point gap from the relegation places with two matches left to play. They have leap-frogged Al Wehda into 12th place. 

Sherif helps Al Khaleej share spoils with Al Ittihad

Mohamed Sherif scored an equaliser late in the second half as Al Khaleej earned a 1-1 draw with 2022-23 RSL champions Al Ittihad.

The Jeddah side, looking to halt a three-game losing streak in the RSL, started impressively at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium, with Portuguese attacker Jota creating two clear chances within the opening 15 minutes.

First, Romarinho surged away on the counter-attack before finding Muhannad Al Shanqeeti on the left wing. The Saudi Arabian checked back and fed the ball to Jota, whose first-time strike skipped just wide of the Al Khaleej goal.

Moments later, Romarinho and Jota combined again. This time, the Brazilian was crowded out in the penalty area but still managed to stab the ball to his strike partner, who turned the ball home. However, the offside flag promptly put an end to any celebrations.

With 20 minutes on the clock, Al Khaleej pushed forward. Fabio Martins played in a dangerous ball from the left wing, but Ivo Rodrigues’ stooping header flew wide of the back post.

In first-half stoppage-time, Al Ittihad went ahead. Muhannad Al Shanqeeti was the quickest to react to a ricochet in the Al Khaleej area before rifling the ball into the bottom corner.

After the linesman initially flagged offside, a VAR check revealed Saleh Al Amri had played the ball off Al Khaleej midfielder Abdulelah Hawsawi, allowing the goal to stand.

Marcelo Gallardo’s side have tailed off in recent weeks but started the second half on the front foot. Fresh from being confirmed in the French squad for UEFA Euro 2024, N’Golo Kante provided a perfect through-ball to Romarinho. Disappointingly for the Brazilian, he curled his one-on-one chance well off target.

As for Al Khaleej, they came inches away from drawing level in the 53rd minute when Martins cannoned his effort off the crossbar from a Rodrigues pull-back.

From there, the hosts slowly began to dominate, but were left open on the counter-attack. Kante was close to doubling Al Ittihad’s advantage after he broke the offside trap and pushed past goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.

The tight angle, though, was always against the World Cup-winning midfielder, his shot rolling across an empty goal before being cleared away from danger. 

Nine minutes from time, Sherif showed plenty of composure to score the goal that pulled Al Khaleej level. Rodrigues provided the perfect pass to send clear the Egyptian, who quickly turned Saad Al Mosa and evaded the goalkeeper Mohammed Al Mahasnah before drilling the ball between two players stationed on the line.

Sparked into action by the leveller, Al Khaleej pushed for a late winner, where Sherif really should have done better with his header from Abdullah Al Shanqiti’s raking long ball.

In the end, both teams settle for a point, Al Khaleej remaining in 11th place, while Al Ittihad stay fifth.