Al Khaleej’s dynamite duo of Fabio Martins and Sokol Cikalleshi fueling intense fight to avoid Roshn Saudi League relegation
On April 11, it all looked over for Al Khaleej in their bid to stay in Roshn Saudi League after winning promotion last season.
They were two-goals down at home to title-chasing Al Shabab, but fought back to be on level terms at the break. It was an impressive response, but they came away with nothing as Hussain Al Qahtani grabbed a second-half winner to enable the visitors to return to Riyadh with all three points.
It meant a return of one point from seven games – relegation form and then some. There were signs in that game, however, that all hope was not lost.
Fabio Martins and Sokol Cikalleshi were on the scoresheet for a team that had scored just twice in the previous six games.
This pair, from Portugal and Albania, were about to move into top gear. It means there is believe in survival during a neck-and-neck battle with fellow promoted outfit Al Adalah to avoid an instant return to First Division League.
Cikalleshi arrived at the start of the season, but nine of his 10 goals have come in 2023, after the mid-season arrival of the Portuguese winger who not only scores himself but creates for others. The 29 year-old is one of the signings of the season.
They scored again in the next game, an emphatic 3-0 win at Al Fayha and again in the game after that, a 2-1 victory at home to Ettifaq. Martins netted in the 1-1 draw with Al Nassr.
Following a 2-0 loss at Al Taawoun came Monday’s crucial clash with fellow promoted team Al Wehda, in 13th place, five points and one place above. Defeat would leave Al Khaleej cut adrift in the bottom three with Al Adalah and now-relegated Al Batin.
They went to Mecca and won 4-1, it is a hugely impressive result though perhaps not a massive surprise given their recent form with the only shock being the fact that Martins did not join Cikalleshi on the scoresheet. He did assist Portuguese compatriot Pedro Amaral for the opener, however, and Brazilian Morato grabbed two.
It means that coach Pedro Emanuel and his men can look forward to remaining games at Al Raed and Abha, even though they are locked on 27 points with fellow promoted side Al Adalah to avoid following Al Batin out of Roshn Saudi League.
With Martins and Cikalleshi two of the league’s most in-form players at the moment, their fans can hope for another season in the top tier.