In a vital 3-1 win over Al-Sadd of Qatar in Group D of the 2021 AFC Champions League Al-Nassr produced the form that took the club to second place in last season’s Saudi Pro League after what has been a chaotic season on and off the pitch.
Both sides went into the tie in the King Saud University Stadium needing the three points after opening their campaigns with disappointing draws. The Riyadh team had only managed a stalemate against group stage debutants Al-Wehdat of Jordan, while Al-Sadd required an 89th minute equalizer against Iran’s Foolad Khouzestan for 1-1 finish.
The win boosts 2020 semi-finalists Al-Nassr’s hopes of advancing to the next stage, while Al-Sadd have it all to do if they are to salvage their campaign.
Both teams starting cautiously and there was little to suggest that A-Nassr, struggling domestically and having endured the upheaval of a new board of directors and the appointment of new coach Mano Menezes, would defeat the Qatari champions in such decisive manner.
Al-Sadd threatened first through Baghdad Bounedjah’s light-footed strike on 34 minutes. The Saudi club responded minutes later as Nordin Amrabat released Sami Al-Najei on the right wing and his cross-hit Al-Sadd captain Abdelkarim Hassan on the arm, leaving the referee no option but to award a penalty.
Abderazzak Hamdallah, last season’s top scorer in the competition, converted from the spot to give Al-Nassr the lead at the break.
Al-Sadd started the second half on the front foot with Mohammed Jade and Nam Tae-hee both missing presentable chances, before Spanish World Cup winner Santi Cazorla beat Brad Jones with a superb 59th minutes free kick.
Al-Nassr slowly regained the upper hand and with just over 10 minutes left Abdulmajeed Al-Sulayhim finished off a fine team move by putting the ball past Meshaal Barsham in Al-Sadd’s goal.
There was still time for Al-Nassr to make it a comprehensive win when Khalid Al-Ghannam struck a stoppage time third goal.
In Group D’s other fixture on Saturday, Foolad Khouzestan of Iran secured their first AFC Champions League group stage win in six years, beating Al-Wehdat 1-0 at King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
The winner came a minute before the break from a Chimba penalty, the Brazilian scoring his fourth goal in eight days to extend a rich run of form which began with last Saturday’s playoff victory over the UAE’s Al-Ain.
Al-Nassr next face Foolad in a top-of-the-table clash on Tuesday while Al Sadd will look to get back on track against Al-Wehdat.