By Naif Muhammad
JEDDAH – Ahli dreams of a Saudi Professional League title were shattered after Shabab forced the Jeddah club to a 1-1 draw at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal stadium Saturday.
In front of large Ahli and Shabab fans who filled the stadium from early hours, Ahli was determined to take the home crowd advantage.
But it was evident that Ahli missed its injured striker, the Omani player Emad Al-Hosani, very badly. And the Ahli fans banked on their another striker Victor to do the impossible. But all his attempts were met by a well-organized Shabab defense line.
Ahli began attacking from the very first minute, but Shabab threatened Ahli with counter-attacks and looked more dangerous. Naser Al-Shamrani proved a constant threat against Ahli’s poor defense. And in the 19th minute he struck. After receiving a fine pass behind Ahli defense-line he came one on one with the Ahli goalkeeper and beat him to hand Shabab a 1-0 lead.
Ahli coach introduced Abdul Rraheem Jizawi in the second half to add power to the firing line and give support to Victor. After missing chance after chance Ahli managed to level the game in the 74th minute from a controversial goal by Tayseer Al-Jasem. Despite Shabab’s protest, the goal was allowed by the referee.
As the game was nearing the final whistle, Ahli players grew frustrated and the referee red-carded two players in the last ten minutes due to bad behavior – Hasan Al-Rahem in the 82nd minute and Muhsin Al-Essa in the injury time.
Undefeated, Shabab topped the league with a record 64 points while Ahli remained second with 62. Hilal ranked third (60) after drawing with Ittifaq 3-3 in the final round. Ittifaq stood fourth (44), followed by Ittihad (37), Al-Fateh (37), Nasr (35), Al-Raid (28), Al-Faisaly (27), Najran (27), Hajer (25) and Taawon (19). Al-Qadisiya and Alnsar dropped to the first division after they ranked in the bottom of the list.