Unstoppable Al Hilal sweep aside Al Ittihad to lift Saudi Super Cup in Abu Dhabi

SPL leaders extend world record run at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium

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Seemingly unstoppable, Al Hilal’s world-record winners captured the first of what could be four trophies this season.

The Riyadh club saw off Al Ittihad in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night; Malcom, Salem Al Dawsari and namesake Nasser Al Dawsari scoring the goals that secured the Saudi Super Cup in the UAE capital.

Hilal, runaway leaders of the current Saudi Pro League, defeated the reigning top-flight champions 4-1 at the Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, the competition’s inaugural run in the Emirates concluding with a familiar victor.

Hilal now have four Super Cup titles, another unprecedented tally to go with their record-extending, and barely believable, 34th consecutive triumph. They last failed to win a match way back when, in September.

With a 12-point lead in the Saudi Pro League, an Asian Champions League semi-final to come against Al Ain, and the King’s Cup to contest too, it is shaping up to be a truly remarkable season for the seasoned silverware stockpilers.

Having dispatched crosstown foes Al Nassr in the Super Cup last four at the same venue on Monday, Hilal needed only four minutes on Thursday to tilt the final in their favour.

Seizing the ball not far into the Ittihad half, Malcom slalomed past two opponents – the latter of which was N’Golo Kante – exchanged a one-two at pace with Saleh Al Shehri, and finished with aplomb under goalkeeper Abdullah Al Mayouf. Sitting in the stands, injured teammate Neymar pumped his fist in celebration.

It marked Malcom’s fourth goal against Ittihad this campaign; they must be sick of the sight of him. To be fair, the Brazilian had been in excellent form all round of late: this was his sixth goal in the past seven matches. On a personal level at least, it’s been a debut season to remember.

However, 21 minutes in, Ittihad threatened to ruin his night.

Taking down a high cross on his chest, Abderrazak Hamdallah got the wrong side of Renan Lodi and, as he shaped to shoot, was felled by the Hilal full-back.

Initially deciding against awarding the penalty, the referee consulted VAR and promptly pointed to the spot. Hamdallah, on penalty duty because Karim Benzema has missed his past two, saw his spot-kick saved by fellow Moroccan Yassine Bounou, but pounced to prod home the rebound.

Yet, right before half-time, Hilal snatched back the lead.

This time, Malcom flicked to Al Shehri, who laid the ball to Salem Al Dawsari on the edge of the area. The Hilal captain raced on to the pass, feinted past two Ittihad defenders and finished superbly back across Al Mayouf, his former club colleague.

Al Dawsari, the current Asian player of the year, set off for the touchline, looked to the stands and cupped his ears to mimic what has become Neymar’s trademark celebration.

The evening felt like it belonged to Hilal. Just after the hour, though, Hamdallah had a goal ruled out for a marginal offside, while Hilal midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic curled a shot from range on to the Ittihad crossbar. Al Dawsari then had a goal disallowed after Saud Abdulhamid had strayed a yard offside before crossing.

But it did not matter. In the final minute, Milinkovic-Savic fed Malcom on the break, the former Zenit Saint Petersburg forward turned Ittihad centre-back Ahmed Hegazi one way and then the other, and dispatched expertly to make safe the result. Deep into stoppage time, substitute Nassr Al Dawsari bundled the ball home to add additional insult to Ittihad.

Hilal had their 34th victory on the bounce, and a first title of the season. Saudi’s serial winners, fighting on all fronts, were at it again.

Updated: April 12, 2024, 4:50 AM