Twists at top and bottom show why Roshn Saudi League is essential viewing
Matchweek 19 in Roshn Saudi League demonstrated title chasers can take nothing for granted when playing those at the bottom.
In a further sign of Saudi football’s strength in depth and ability to entertain, holders Al Hilal, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr and 2022 AFC Champions League quarter-finalists Al Shabab all toiled against teams towards the bottom. Even second-placed Al Ittihad’s 3-0 win at third-bottom Al Khaleej witnessed all goals come after the interval.
Not only that, but the relegation battle is looking very interesting indeed
When Al Nassr kicked off at home against Al Batin, it is safe to say that most expected a comfortable win. The hosts had won their previous three games and new signing Cristiano Ronaldo had scored eight goals in the previous four.
The visitors may have picked up their first win of the season in the previous matchday, but were still cut adrift at the bottom and surely defeat number 15 was on its way.
Al Nassr eventually won 3-1, though that does not tell anything like the full story.
Under new coach Zdravko Logarusic, who replaced his Croatian counterpart Alen Horvat last month, Al Batin were excellent. They took an early lead through battling Uruguayan striker Renzo Lopez and held on until the 93rd-minute.
Set pieces eventually proved Al Batin’s undoing as Al Nassr scored three in second-half injury time.
This followed a thrilling 3-3 draw between 13th-placed Al Wehda and Al Hilal 24 hours earlier. Al Hilal resumed top-flight commitments after historically reaching the FIFA Club World Cup’s final last month and then went to Qatar to book a place in the AFC Champions League final.
The Blues were brought back down to earth on Thursday.
Three times the defending champions took the lead at the home of the newly promoted team and when Saud Abdulhamid made it 3-2 after 93 minutes, it seemed to be another win. It was one that Al Hilal needed as their overseas commitments mean they have fallen behind the top three.
That is still the case as Sultan Al Sawadi equalised for a third time for Al Wehda and that was that.
It, however, was not the shock result of the round. That belongs to Al Adalah who won 2-1 at third-placed Al Shabab.
When Aaron Boupendza opened the scoring after 20 minutes, it seemed that a routine home win was coming for the title-chasing Riyadh club.
But then David Tijanic equalised just after the hour and deep into injury time, again, Pedro Eugenio scored to give the visitors their fourth win of the season.
Al Adalah stay next to last, but they now have seven points from nine and the teams at the bottom are starting to show the talent they possess and determination to stay in the top flight.
It not only means that the relegation battle is going to be a tense one, but the teams that have the title in their sights know that there are no easy games in the league.
That can only be a good thing, even if Al Hilal and Al Shabab may not agree at the moment.