5 things we learned from second round of Saudi Pro League season

5 things we learned from second round of Saudi Pro League season
Al-Hilal’s dominance should be a concern to rivals as champions take early lead in the table without hitting any high notes yet. (Twitter: @Alhilal_EN)
Short Url
Updated 22 August 2021

5 things we learned from second round of Saudi Pro League season

5 things we learned from second round of Saudi Pro League season
  • Al-Hilal’s dominance should be a concern to rivals as champions take early lead in the table without hitting any high notes yet

Two down and lots to go. The second round of matches of the 2021-22 Saudi Pro League season was a chance for clubs to bounce back from a disappointing opener, or an opportunity to really make fans excited.

Here are five things that we learned from all the action on the second matchday.

1. Al-Hilal looking ominous

Al-Hilal is looking dangerous, precisely because it is not looking that dangerous but is still top of the table with two wins out of two. The champs have not found their rhythm yet this season but fans won’t care too much if the victories keep coming.

A defensive mix-up let in Al-Taawoun to take the lead and the visitors were on course for a famous victory with 10 minutes left, but then twice left opponents unmarked in the area to get on the end of crosses from Yasser Al-Shahrani.

First Moussa Marega headed home in fine style to open his account for the club and then Jang Hyun-soo, who doesn’t get on the scoresheet often, side-footed coolly into the bottom corner to give Leonardo Jardmin’s men a second successive last-minute win. The Portuguese boss won’t mind the timing and won’t mind that it was harsh on Al-Taawoun. Al-Hilal are in a familiar position and have not yet started firing on all cylinders.

2. Al-Ettifaq’s fightback one for the ages

It was a game that had everything and was a fantastic, entertaining advert for Saudi Arabian football. With 13 minutes remaining on Saturday, Al-Shabab was 3-0 up against Al-Ettifaq and preparing for its first three-point haul of the season. With Odion Ighalo looking sharp with two goals, last season’s runner-up didn’t even need to rue the chances its forward had missed, but then it all changed.

Two goals in the space of three minutes had the visitors right back in the game and then there was nothing that Al-Shabab could do about the third. A defensive clearance from close range hit the knee of Ibrahim Mahnashi and went in. The young midfielder knew little about it but it won what should become a famous point. Al-Taawoun let a 3-1 lead slip late in the opening game at Al-Hazm, but this was something else.

3. Bad and good news for Al-Ahli

After the opening-day draw, Al-Ahli were looking to pick up a win at Al-Hazem but endured a disastrous first half on Thursday night. Star striker Omar Al-Somah was injured after just a few minutes and was subbed out with a muscular injury. It remains to be seen how long he is out for. To make matters worse, the home team scored twice in quick succession before the break.

Al-Ahli were heading for defeat. More than most coaches, new coach Besnik Hasi needed a good start to the season to show that he is the man to return the Jeddah giants to the top of the table. That is why two goals in the last 15 minutes were very welcome.

It showed that there is fight in the team and it was especially encouraging to see two big signings getting on the scoresheet. Ezgjan Alioski, recently arrived from Leeds United, scored from the spot. Then, with seven minutes remaining, Paulinho, also making his debut, grabbed the point, poking the ball home at the far post. It wasn’t the most spectacular goal in his career but he celebrated with genuine gusto and delight.

4. Even Talisca magic not enough for predictable Al-Nassr

You won’t see a better free-kick anywhere in the world this week than the 30-yarder that Talisca curled perfectly into the top corner of Faisaly’s goal after just eight minutes. It was a stunning goal and more evidence that Al-Nassr have signed a very talented player.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the Riyadh team. The Brazilian gave away a penalty at the end of the first half, though the foul may well have come just outside the area. It was converted by Julio Tavares. The Cape Verde striker also headed home the winner early in the second half.

Al-Nassr coach Mano Menezes pointed the finger at the referee although his team was guilty of giving the ball away too easily, especially in midfield, and too often launched the ball long. Talisca’s goal was worthy of winning any game but Al-Nassr will have to be more creative in possession.

5. Settled Al-Faisaly suggesting a higher finish

If Al-Faisaly had not won the King’s Cup in May then last season would have been seen as a major disappointment as the team finished just one point above the relegation zone.

The start to this season has been encouraging with four points taken off two Saudi Arabian titans, Al-Ahli and Al-Nassr. Al-Faisaly may have lost coach Pericles Chamusca in the summer and replaced him with Italian tactician Paolo Tramezzani, but there is a sense of stability in the team. Most of the foreign players have been there for at least a season and this makes a big difference. With Junior Tavares already among the goals once again, if the defense can stay solid, then a better season is in store and the signs so far are good.


Goal rush as foreign contingent take center stage in ninth round of Saudi Pro League season

Goal rush as foreign contingent take center stage in ninth round of Saudi Pro League season
Updated 26 October 2021

Goal rush as foreign contingent take center stage in ninth round of Saudi Pro League season

Goal rush as foreign contingent take center stage in ninth round of Saudi Pro League season
  • Overseas players score 18 of 22 goals in latest round of matches featuring 16 SPL clubs

Overseas players took center stage in the ninth round of the 2021-22 Saudi Professional League season, with the eight fixtures producing 22 goals at rate of 2.75 goals per match.

Foreign players at the 16 top-flight Saudi clubs continued to shine, scoring 18 of the 22 goals, with doubles notched by Syrian striker Omar Al-Soma in Al-Ahli’s 2-1 win away to Al-Tai; the Nigerian Odion Ighalo in Al-Shabab’s 2-0 victory over Al-Ittihad; and Argentine Luciano Vietto for Al-Hilal in the 3-2 win over Al-Raed, in which the winning goal came from Frenchman Bafetimbi Gomis.

Romain Amalfitano, Al-Faisaly’s French midfielder, scored a late equalizer against Al-Taawoun to secure a 2-2 draw for his team, while Emilio Zelaya of Argentina grabbed the only goal goal of the match for Damac against Al-Hazem to take his is team to the top of the SPL standings with 18 points.

Meanwhile, Al-Ettifaq’s Slovakian midfielder Filip Kiss converted a penalty in the 1-0 win against Al-Nassr at the end of the round, which also witnessed goals by Guilherme Augusto (Al-Faisaly), Saad Bguir (Abha), Mitchell te Vrede (Abha), Cedric Amissi (Al-Taawoun), Christian Cueva (Al-Fateh), Eder Lopes (Al-Raed), Lucas Alves (Al-Tai) and Renato Chavez (Al-Batin).

The Saudi quartet of Fahad Al-Jumayah (Abha), Yousef Al-Shammari (Al-Batin), Yahya Al-Shehri (Al-Raed) and Sumayhan Al-Nabit (Al-Taawoun) completed the scoring with a goal each.


All signs point to Jeddah as world’s top women golfers prepare for $2m Saudi Arabia double-header

All signs point to Jeddah as world’s top women golfers prepare for $2m Saudi Arabia double-header
Updated 26 October 2021

All signs point to Jeddah as world’s top women golfers prepare for $2m Saudi Arabia double-header

All signs point to Jeddah as world’s top women golfers prepare for $2m Saudi Arabia double-header
  • Aramco Saudi Ladies International and Aramco Team Series, Jeddah events in November ‘will bring new generation to the sport’

Some of the biggest names in women’s golf will head to Saudi Arabia in November for back-to-back Aramco Saudi Ladies International and Aramco Team Series Jeddah tournaments.

The two events will take place at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in nearby King Abdullah Economic City and, together, form the Kingdom’s debut Women in Sport Season.

Leading players on the Ladies European Tour will compete for a total of $2 million in the space of a fortnight.

First up is the Aramco Saudi Ladies International (Nov. 4-7), presented by the Public Investment Fund, in which almost 100 players will go head to head for a share of $1 million in prize money.

The final of four Aramco Team Series events — launched on the Ladies European Tour for the first time this year — will take place from Nov. 10-12, with the Jeddah leg following tournaments in London, Spain and New York.

The new format sees three professional players team up with an amateur player and then compete for a share of $800,000, with the best individual scorers also battling for a $200,000 prize fund.

The individual category of this month’s New York leg was won by England’s Charley Hull, who returns to Saudi Arabia after competing in last year’s debut tournament.

Speaking after her win in New York, the 25-year-old Hull said: “I’ve loved the Aramco Team Series and played in every event so far — London, Spain, New York and Saudi Arabia is now next. I can’t wait. I played in Saudi last year and thought it was a great event. The golf course was lovely, so I’m really looking forward to getting back.”

She added: “The Aramco Team Series isn’t just a great event for the women on tour, but also for the amateurs who get to play and the fans who get to watch. It’s a lot of fun. For me, it will be great to get back to Saudi, especially with the support Golf Saudi and Aramco are giving the sport. Since last year’s first event I’ve heard that a lot of young girls out in Saudi Arabia are taking up golf, which is so good to hear.”

Joining Hull at Royal Greens will be Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen, who recorded a clean sweep in the Kingdom last year when she won the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund, then both the team and individual elements in what was then the Saudi Ladies Team International, the precursor to the Aramco Team Series.

“Last year was such a fantastic experience for me in Saudi Arabia,” Pedersen said. “I loved the course, the weather, the people were so nice, and it was just a great 10 days. I obviously have such fond memories so going back will certainly be special for me.”

“The Aramco Saudi Ladies International felt like a big moment in women’s golf — something the Aramco Team Series has really built on this year, building our game even further. I’ve really enjoyed all three ATS events so far this season, and I know the final one in Jeddah will be awesome, too.”

Other names taking part are England’s Annabel Dimmock, Anna Nordqvist of Sweden, Minjee Lee of Australia and Georgia Hall, also of England.


Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia
Updated 26 October 2021

Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia
  • The match between the Spanish and Argentine giants, which is part of the Riyadh Season festivities, will honor the late Diego Maradona, who played for both

Spanish soccer giants Barcelona and Argentina’s Boca Juniors will contest the Maradona Cup on Dec. 14 at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, several sources confirmed on Monday, including the European side.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, had previously announced in a message posted on Twitter this month that two of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s former clubs would face off in a friendly match in November as part of Riyadh Season. On Monday night he posted update with the new date for the match.

The post included a short video that showed Maradona scoring his famous solo goal against England during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, along with highlights from his time with Barcelona and Boca Juniors. It ends with the words “legend forever.”

The inaugural Riyadh Season in 2019 attracted more than 10 million visitors. After skipping 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event returned this month. Described as one of the biggest global entertainment festivals, with a diverse program of events and experiences spread across 14 venues in the capital, it will continue until March 2022.


Saudi Arabia beat Kuwait by four wickets in ICC T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier

Saudi Arabia managed 149/6 with six balls remaining, with player of the match Sajid Cheema scoring 52 runs, having earlier taken two catches. (Twitter: @cricketsaudi)
Saudi Arabia managed 149/6 with six balls remaining, with player of the match Sajid Cheema scoring 52 runs, having earlier taken two catches. (Twitter: @cricketsaudi)
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia beat Kuwait by four wickets in ICC T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier

Saudi Arabia managed 149/6 with six balls remaining, with player of the match Sajid Cheema scoring 52 runs, having earlier taken two catches. (Twitter: @cricketsaudi)
  • Men’s T20 World Cup will be held in Australia next October

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia beat Kuwait by four wickets in their Men's ICC T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier in Doha on Monday.

They won the toss and elected to field first, with Kuwait posting 146/8 in their 20 overs.

With a target of 147 set for a win, Saudi Arabia managed 149/6 with six balls remaining, with player of the match Sajid Cheema scoring 52 runs, having earlier taken two catches.

The Asia qualifiers in Qatar will determine which team progresses to next year’s Men’s ICC T20 World Cup taking place in Australia.

After two rounds of matches, Saudi Arabia now lead the five-team qualifying competition with a maximum of four points from two wins, followed by Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, who have two points each from a win and a loss. 

The Maldives are in last place with no points from two defeats. Saudi Arabia comfortably beat the Maldives in their first match by seven wickets, with 29 balls remaining.

The Maldives were 98/9, while the Saudis were 101/3 from 15.1 overs.

Saudi Arabia’s next match will be on Wednesday against hosts Qatar.


Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi
Updated 25 October 2021

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi

Casper Ruud and Denis Shapovalov confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi
  • The two men join women’s US Open winner Emma Raducanu and Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in the line-up for the tournament

ABU DHABI: World No. 8 Casper Ruud and No. 13 Denis Shapovalov have been confirmed for the 2021 Mubadala World Tennis Championship taking place at the International Tennis Centre on December 16-18.

After a one-year absence due to the pandemic, the tournament will be held in the UAE capital for the 13th time with full capacity crowds.

Ruud, winner of the most ATP titles in 2021, and Shapovalov, who reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon, are the first two male players to be confirmed for this year’s event.

The pair, both regarded as future Grand Slam champions, join women’s US Open winner Emma Raducanu and her opponent on day one, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, in signing up to make their Abu Dhabi and tournament debuts. The remaining four players will be announced in the coming weeks.

“Announcing the players for the Championship is always a special moment and we have two special players in Casper and Denis,” said John Lickrish, CEO of Flash Entertainment, which is running the tournament. “Our goal is to bring the world’s best talent and build on the legacy of our championship and both players are the perfect fit.”

“They are young, supremely talented, have had successes this season and are great additions to the line-up alongside Emma and Belinda,” he said. “We are once again on track to bring the best-of-the-best from the world of tennis. Stay tuned for more announcements and rest assured the Championship is, as always, a must attend for all tennis fans.”

Norwegian ace Ruud is arguably the most improved player on the ATP tour this year, having won five tour titles in 2021, his latest victory coming at the San Diego Open earlier this October. It is a run that has made him the first Norwegian to break into the world’s top 10.

“I’ve had a great season this year and I’m excited to make my debut at this year’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship. I’m eager to keep improving next year, so Abu Dhabi in December provides a chance to play against the world’s best in preparation for another big season, while exploring a new destination and new cultures,” said Ruud.

Canadian star Shapovalov has also had an impressive year, achieving his best Grand Slam results in reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon. In 2020 he was one of only two Canadian men to achieve an ATP Top-10 ranking.

“It’s always nice to play in a new city and get the opportunity to see and do different things. I’m excited to come to Abu Dhabi to see all it has to offer, and I’ve heard great things about the venue so I’m looking forward to playing against the best in the world and putting on a show for the fans,” said Shapovalov.