Jesus "very proud" Al Hilal preserve unbeaten RSL season with draw at Al Nassr

Al Hilal manager Jorge Jesus saluted his players’ resilience after they maintained the club’s unbeaten Roshn Saudi League season in injury-time to earn a 1-1 draw against Riyadh rivals Al Nassr.

Friday night’s dramatic derby exploded into life after 25 seconds, when Al Nassr midfielder Otavio thundered the hosts into the lead from distance at Al Awwal Park.

However, a last-gasp Aleksandar Mitrovic penalty ensured the newly confirmed RSL champions remain on course for an invincible 2023-24 domestic league campaign, the Serbian smashing home his spot-kick after a VAR check.

In a match where both sides created chances, both Jesus and Al Nassr counterpart Luis Castro agreed the hosts enjoyed the better of the first half, but the title winners the second half.

While Al Hilal couldn’t maintain a remarkable RSL winning run that stretched all the way back to September – 24 games in total – Jesus says the determination shown to earn a point bears all the hallmark of champions.

Al Hilal, 12 points clear of second-placed Al Nassr at the summit, secured the title in Matchweek 31, with three games to spare. They also face off against their familiar foes in the upcoming King’s Cup final.

“I’m very proud of my players,” Jesus said. “They showed great resilience [to keep the unbeaten record]. We have a fantastic group of players. I believe in their talents; they believe in my ideas.

“It has been a fantastic season until now. We want to finish as winners and there are three games left: two in the league and one the King’s Cup final.

“We not only want to be unbeaten in the next two games in the league but also win the King’s Cup. I don’t think you can have a better season than this in local competitions.”

Al Hilal’s penalty was awarded deep into injury-time when Sadio Mane was deemed to have caught Saud Abdulhamid just inside the hosts’ penalty area. After being called to the screen by VAR, Spanish referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez pointed to the spot, and Mitrovic did the rest for his 27th goal of his debut RSL campaign.

Jesus believed Saud was impeded by Mane, but Al Nassr’s Castro was unhappy that the decision denied his team three points against their Riyadh rivals.

“The penalty given to them and scored by them, it wasn’t at all a penalty,” Castro said. “There is no injury, there is no foul at all.

Ronaldo reacts to Al Hilal equaliser

Asked whether the result would have an influence on the King’s Cup final, which rounds off the season, Castro said: “No, this was one match and that is a different match.

“We all saw how Al Hilal celebrated as if they won, but they only drew. That means it was a tough match for them. We had chances to win.”