Al-Ittihad are Saudi Arabian champions for the first time since 2009 after beating Al-Fayha 3-0 in the final round of matches of the Roshan Saudi League on Saturday. Second-placed Al-Nasr fought back to draw 1–1 at Atifaq, but it was not enough as Ittihad’s victory ended an exciting title race. It is a well-deserved victory for coach Nuno Santo and his players, who saw off the hard work and challenge of Cristiano Ronaldo and Al-Nassr to win a well-deserved prize.
At the kick-off, Al-Ittihad knew that a win would be enough for title number nine, but they also knew that they were in a good position before and failed to finish the job as in the previous season when Al But there was an advantage of 16 points. Hilal proved not enough. However, any nerves were eased after three minutes as Ahmed Sharahili sent the Jeddah giants on their way. Igor Coronado floated over a deep free-kick and Sharhilli reacted to hit the ball in from close range and celebrations in Jeddah began to bubble beneath the surface.
That opening strike was a shock for Al-Nassr, who hit the post in the first half thanks to Luiz Gustavo’s shot from close range. But three minutes before the break, Yellow fell behind. Youssef Niyakate headed home from close range and completed a precise move. It was harsh on Al-Nassr, who dominated possession and had the better chances, but could feel that their chances of league title number ten were slipping away.
Ronaldo and his team continued to work hard but suffered another blow just before the break as Al-Ittihad extended their lead thanks to another set piece. Coronado once again floated the free-kick and this time Romarinho – the Brazilian has been one of the players of the season – headed home. This prompted wild celebration among the traveling fans, who knew their 14-year wait was almost over.
However, al-Nasr was not one to give up without a fight. After 56 minutes, Abdulrahman Gharib passed back to the attacking Gustavo, who fired a rocket from outside the area into the top corner of the Attifaq goal. It was a great effort. With ten minutes remaining, it looked as if the game had been won as Gharib pulled the ball back for Gustavo to fire an unstoppable shot into the Atifak net. It was ruled out by VAR, who spotted an offside in the build up. In the end, it didn’t really matter as Al-Ittihad rarely looked to lose their two-goal lead and their grip on the league trophy. Soon after, the Tigers made it 3–0 as Romainho broke free to drive the ball home from inside the area.
This meant the celebrations could begin in earnest as Al-Ittihad took the points before the end of the Al-Nassr game. This is a deserved win.
Elsewhere, defending champions Al-Hilal moved into third place with a 3–0 win over Abha. Mohamed Al-Qahtani opened the scoring after 11 minutes and Odion Ighalo took the lead a minute before the break. Abdullah Al-Hamdan added a third.
The fight for relegation is getting intense. In a battle of the two teams at the bottom of the table, Al-Batin, who are already relegated, drew 2–2 next to Al-Adlah, who are one point behind safety, and Al-Khaleej, who finished 0–0. Al-Raed drew -0. Al-Weidah are now safe after defeating Al-Tai 2-1.
However, the spotlight is, for once, not on Cristiano Ronaldo, but on the new champions, Al-Ittihad.