Qatari government employees will work from home during the World Cup

Sharing the capital’s spoils: 5 things we learned from the Riyadh derby between Al-Hilal and Al-Shabab

The Riyadh Derby ended 1-1 on Monday as the defending champions and current leaders showed there was not much to choose between them at the start of the Roshn Saudi League season. .

Moussa Marega put Al-Hilal ahead in the first half, before Carlos Junior struck early in the second to give Al-Shabab a draw that keeps them top with 19 points from seven games. They are four ahead of second-placed Al-Tai, although Al-Ittihad and Al-Taawoun could close the gap at the top to two points if they win on Tuesday. Al-Hilal is currently fourth.

1. Al-Shabab the happiest of the two teams

The leaders may have dropped points for the first time this season and it may have been 19 games since they last beat rivals Riyadh, but they are likely to be a little happier in the stalemate. Al-Hilal had more chances to score and also saw a second-half penalty saved by Kim Seung-gyu. In short, the champions pretty much deserved to win the game, so for Al-Shabab to come back from a goal and save a kick will be satisfying.

It was Al-Hilal who was most desperate to win at the start of the game. For most teams, going three games without a win isn’t even a blow, but for Asian football’s winning machine, it’s almost a crisis in its own right. The draw also means they are still five points behind the leaders.

Al-Shabab will see this as a successful test and with a home game against newly promoted Al-Khaleej to complete this first leg of the season, will be confident of entering the World Cup break with 22 points from eight games. . This is the winning form of the title.

2. Diaz feels the pressure

After the game, Al-Hilal boss Ramon Diaz pointed to the injuries that robbed his team of stars including Salman Al-Faraj, Salem Al-Dawsari and Matheus Pereira and he scores a point. and he also had a point in that the champions should have won. It wasn’t a bad performance and if Odion Ighalo had scored from the spot early in the second half to make it 2-0 it would probably have been three points and second place.

But that wasn’t the case and excuses don’t carry much weight when it comes to the most successful team in Saudi and Asian football. Diaz said the fans will really see what the team is made of when the injury situation improves, but unless things improve he might not be around when it does.

The Argentine knows he has to win against Al-Tai on Saturday otherwise, with the World Cup break approaching, he might just find himself out of a job. This is how it is at the club. Last season’s exploits are a thing of the past. After all, Diaz replaced Leonardo Jardim less than three months after the Portuguese coach led Al-Hilal to a record fourth Asian Champions League title.

3. Kim the hero of Al-Shabab

Since signing for Al-Shabab in the summer, South Korean number one Kim Seung-gyu has only had to remove the ball from the back of the net once in the first six games of the season.

Perhaps the international keeper was slightly disappointed to be beaten at his near post by Marega in the first half, even though it was a ferocious shot from close range. If so, he redeemed himself early in the second half. If Ighalo had scored from the spot to extend Al-Hilal’s lead, the game would more than likely have been over, and the whole conversation surrounding the two clubs would now look very different.

Kim had other ideas and landed very well, low to his right, to push the ball for a corner, from where he made another fine save, tipping a shot from Michael.

Shortly after, Carlos equalized and instead of 2-0 it was 1-1. Goalkeepers don’t often make the headlines, but Kim’s save was the difference between a defeat that would have dealt a blow to Al-Shabab’s confidence and raised doubts over their league titles, and a draw that keeps them well placed.

4. It was a real derby

Derbies can be wary with teams more concerned with not losing than risking being too aggressive in pursuit of a win. An outside observer might have expected two defences, who have conceded a combined total of three goals in six games so far, to be happy to sit back and let the full-backs do their thing. That wasn’t the case here, with both teams looking to win.

Al-Hilal was particularly fast in the starting blocks, as the competition quickly became entertaining. It was stuff through and through. Marega screamed for an early handball penalty while Santi Mina probably should have done better than his low shot that just grazed the outside of Al-Hilal’s post. There were last-ditch tackles, delicious balls and plenty to do.

They are two of the best teams in Asia and they have provided great publicity for the Saudi Professional League.

5. Al-Tai now above Al-Hilal and now a decisive game

Objectively, Al-Hilal’s start to the season hasn’t been bad at all as the champions have taken 14 points in seven games, a solid platform from which to step up a gear and mount a challenge for the title. Yet they are now below their next opponents Al-Tai, the team that fought relegation for much of last season and finished just four points above the drop zone.

Now, after a 2-0 win at Al-Raed, which started with a fine header from Guy Mbenza who netted his second goal of the season, Al-Tai are flying away. What was even more impressive was that the team played the second half with 10 men but still held onto their two-goal, clean-sheet lead. Relegation shouldn’t be a problem this season and they currently sit in an unlikely second place.

They go into their clash against Al-Hilal on Friday full of confidence and who knows what will happen next?

And if Al-Taawoun, another relegation contender from last season, beats Abha as expected on Tuesday, they will be three points clear of Al-Hilal, and possibly ahead of second-placed Al-Tai.

This is indeed shaping up to be a very interesting season.

About Tammy N. McFarlane

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