Saudi Arabia: Opening day wins for the Big Two
Saudi Arabia’s domestic championship began this weekend with record champions Al-Hilal showing their mettle as they came from behind to defeat Hajer Club by two goals to one whilst Al-Ittihad warmed up for their forthcoming AFC Champions League clash with South Korean outfit FC Seoul with an exciting 5-3 triumph over Al Tawwun.
Al-Hilal won last season’s title going through the whole league campaign undefeated but when Hajer Club took the lead through Khalid Al-Rujaib on the stroke of half-time there was a worry that the opening to the new season would finish in an embarrassing defeat to a team who were promoted as First Division (2nd tier) champions last season. The old order was restored when Youssef Al-Arabi scored the equalizer just five minutes after the break with Al-Hilal, under the charge of new coach ex-Germany international Thomas Doll, able to take control of the situation midway through the second half when Al-Arabi scored his second of the game and give the champions a lead which they never relinquished.
Al-Ittihad have finished second in the league for the last two seasons because of the superior form of their arch-rivals from Al-Hilal. However they began the new campaign with a 5-3 win over Al-Tawwun who finished the 2010-11 season in a respectable 7th place. Last season’s runners-up seemed to be coasting to victory going in with a 3-1 half-time lead but Al-Tawwun came back to level the scores with just fifteen minutes of the match remaining. However goals from Wendel and Fahad Al-Enezi provided Al-Ittihad with the cushion they were looking for and provided a much needed confidence boost ahead of their quarter-final, 1st leg fixture against FC Seoul in the AFC Champions League this Wednesday.