JEDDAH: Ahmed Hegazi was both hero and villain for Al-Ittihad as they drew 1-1 with Al-Shabab in the top of the table clash in the Saudi Professional League on Monday. The Al-Ittihad defender gave a penalty away in the first half from which Cristian Guanca put the hosts ahead but then moments later, he struck in the opposite area to earn a hard-fought point to take back to Jeddah.
The result means that Al-Shabab move into second, though Al-Hilal will reclaim that spot if they defeat Al-Raed on Tuesday, and Al-Ittihad go third. Al-Nassr are three points clear at the top
After two defeats in the previous three games had seen Al-Shabab slip down from pole position, the hosts were desperate to get back to winning ways and the visit of their title rivals offered the perfect opportunity. It also offered a chance to see Shabab’s Spanish boss Vicente Moreno take on Nuno Santo, his Portuguese opposite number.
There were chances at both ends in the opening stages but the game really burst into life after 20 minutes when Al-Shabab were awarded a penalty. Hegazi was adjudged to have stepped on the foot of Hattan Bahebri inside the area and Guanca stepped up to send Marcelo Grohe, who had already saved a penalty in 2023 in the 2-1 win at Abha, the wrong way.
The lead barely lasted two minutes however as the Egyptian defender made amends. An Igor Coronado corner caused chaos in the area with Romarinho having a close range shot at the far post. That was blocked but despite the presence of a number of bodies on the goalline, the ball eventually fell to Hegazi who lashed it high into the net with delight from inside the six yard box.
In the second half, Carlos almost reestablished Al-Shabab’s lead with a spectacular overhead kick that just went wide with Grohe nowhere. While the Riyadh team had more possession and always carried a goal threat, Al-Ittihad, coming off their first defeat of the season against Al-Hilal last Thursday, tried to break forward at every opportunity. On one such foray just before the hour, Coronado blasted just over from inside the area and soon after Abderrazak Hamdallah shot centimetres wide, though the flag had gone up.
Chances continued to come and go but neither team could make them count. It remains to be seen whether this is a valuable point earned or two lost.