Saudi Clasico enjoys a storied history as Al Hilal and Al Ittihad prepare for Tuesday’s latest chapter
Football across the world is littered with iconic rivalries and derbies that stir the emotions.
Saudi Arabia is no different, and it’s the ‘Saudi Clasico’ between Al Hilal and Al Ittihad which captures the attention.
Pitting Saudi Arabia’s two biggest cities, Riyadh and Jeddah, against each other, the matches between the two historic rivals always deliver, with their history littered with iconic moments that have come to define the rivalry.
As the two sides prepare for battle on Tuesday, another thrilling chapter looks set to be written in this decades-long rivalry.
A win for Al Ittihad will go a long way to securing their first title in over a decade, while a win for Al Hilal could reduce their lead at the top of the table to less than three points and would put a serious dent in those ambitions.
It’s far from the first time to two have met with so much on the line.
In May 2022, long-term leaders Al Ittihad hosted Al Hilal knowing victory would all-but-seal the title. They enjoyed the perfect start at King Abdullah Sports City when Romarinho netted.
Holders Al Hilal, however, refused to let go of their trophy. A brace by Michael and effort from Salem Al Dawsari secured a famous win which would, ultimately, propel them to the title at Al Ittihad’s expense.
Arguably the most memorable encounters between the two came in the early 2000s when the two traditional rivals traded league titles, with the two sides sharing nine of the first eleven titles of this century.
In the 2006/07 season, Al Hilal finished the regular season on top, five points clear of Al Ittihad, but with the league incorporating a play-offs system, the two sides met in the ultimate decider at King Fahd International Stadium.
On that occasion Al Ittihad scored a famous victory with legendary defender Hamad Al Montashari heading home in the 94th minute to secure a dramatic come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
Less than 12 months later, with play-offs no longer in play, the two sides would meet again on the final day of the 2007/08 season after being mired in a thrilling title battle for the entire season.
Al Ittihad had a three-point advantage going into the decider, but with head-to-head rather than goal difference the ultimate tie breaker, Al Hilal knew a win would be enough to secure them their eleventh title.
Played in Jeddah, at Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium, the home side were chasing back-to-back titles, while Al Hilal were out for revenge for what happened the previous season.
The decisive moment came early in the second half when Ahmed Al Fraidi floated a cross into the box for Yasser Al Qahtani who got the faintest of touches on the ball to head home what was to be the only goal of the game to secure Al Hilal’s eleventh league title.
To this day that match is still remembered as شعره ياسر, which translates as ‘Yasser’s Hair’, given how faint the touch was for the winning goal.
With so much on the line with just weeks of the season remaining, the latest meeting promises to add another thrilling chapter to one of Asia’s most storied and passionate rivalries.