Al-Ahli overcome Al-Hilal to secure 1st win of Saudi Women’s Premier League season

Al-Ahli overcome Al-Hilal to secure 1st win of Saudi Women’s Premier League season
Al-Ahli overcome Al-Hilal to secure 1st win of Saudi Women’s Premier League season

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Al-Hilal this week lost Neymar to injury for the foreseeable future but at least they still have the formidable goal power of Aleksandar Mitrovic to count on.

And that proved to be enough for a 1-0 home victory over Al-Khaleej on Friday night that extended their lead at the top of the table to three points after the 10th game of the season.

Fans in Riyadh and Rio have been coming to terms with the distressing sight of Neymar being carried off the pitch during Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Uruguay on Tuesday and the subsequent news that he requires surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Banners flew in the stands on Friday bearing the player’s image and the message “Return Stronger.”

If his team can maintain their winning ways so far this season, when he does return it could well be to a squad of champions. Boosted by the good news that closest title rivals Al-Taawoun and Al-Ittihad had drawn 1-1 in their match earlier in the evening, Al-Hilal knew that victory would move them three points clear at the top — and that is exactly what happened.

They went on the attack from the get-go. In the 14th minute, Malcom pushed the ball past the goalkeeper and it was rolling toward the net, but a sprinting Saeed Al-Hamsal just managed to get his body in the way. Soon after, Ruben Neves sent over a cross, only for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to head just wide.

In the end, it took the 18-time champions 30 minutes to break the deadlock with what was a typical goal from Serbian striker Mitrovic. A corner kick hung high and long in the air as it flew toward the far post. Goalkeeper Marwan Al-Haidari came off his line but could not get to it, and Mitrovic sent a looping header into the net.

Just before the break, the former Fulham forward sent a similar header, this time from a Michael cross, just over the bar, and the first half ended with Malcom missing a good close-range opportunity.

The second half continued in much the same vein, with even more attacks from Al-Hilal. Neves shot wide from a great position inside the area and then, just after the hour mark, Mitrovic showed his aerial prowess once more, but his powerful downward header drew a fine save from Al-Haidari.

Despite several more attempts, a second goal would just not come. Then, with 15 minutes remaining, the ball somehow found its way into the back of the net after Salem Al-Dawsari slid in at the right byline and guided the ball home, with the help of a deflection off the goalkeeper. However, the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play and the goal did not stand.

Al-Hilal might have felt a little frustrated by their inability to categorically put the game to bed with a second goal but, still, the three points were eventually secured, leaving the 18-time champions sitting pretty at the top of the league, albeit with some tough tests to come in the league, and in Asia, which they will have to face without Neymar.

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