Karim Benzema scores on debut as Al Ittihad make winning start in King Salman Cup

French striker's goal on 56 minutes earns Saudi side a 2-1 victory over Esperance de Tunis

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Karim Benzema marked his Al Ittihad debut with a stunning goal as the Saudi Pro League side opened their Group A account in the 2023 King Salman Cup with a victory over Espernance de Tunis.

The French striker's effort from the edge of the area on 56 minutes nestled into the top corner to give the Saudi Pro League champions a 2-1 win after Abderrazak Hamdallah had cancelled out Oussema Bouguerra's opener.

Reigning Ballon d'Or holder Benzema, 35, is arguably the most high-profile recruit to the Pro League this summer having joined Ittihad from Real Madrid in June on a three-year contract.

Portuguese winger Jota, who joined the Jeddah outfit from Celtic, also made his first start.

Qatar's Al Sadd played out a 0-0 draw against Wydad Cascablanca in Thursday's other Group A match.

New Al Hilal signings Ruben Neves and Kalidou Koulibaly were given their bows in a goalless draw against Al Ahli Tripoli in Group b.

Portugal midfielder Neves, who joined from Wolves for a Saudi Pro League transfer record of £47 million, played the full 90 minutes as did and Senegal defender Koulibaly, who switched London for Riyadh after a disappointing season at Chelsea.

Iraq's Al Shutra beat CB Sfaxien 1-0 in the other group match.

Friday's games sees Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr in action against fellow Saudi side Al Shabab in Group C.

Nassr drew 1-1 against Uefa Champions League finalists Inter Milan in a pre-season friendly in Osaka on Wednesday.

Egyptian powerhouse Zamalek take on Tunisia's US Monastir while Group D pits CR Belouizdad of Algeria against Morocco's Raja Casablanca and UAE club Al Wahda against Kuwait SC.

It will be Wahda's first match since the death of former club president Sheikh Saeed bin Zayed on Thursday. President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has declared three days of mourning in the Emirates.

Known more widely as the Arab Club Champions Cup, the tournament, in its 30th edition and named this year the King Salman Club Cup as it is hosted in Saudi Arabia.

The top two teams advance to the knockout rounds with the final to by played on August 12.

Updated: August 16, 2023, 12:07 PM