El Hadary and Meteb lead Al-Taawoun to victory over Ittihad
Essam El Hadary’s sharp wit and quick reflexes helped ease the defense into a more attacking position as Al-Taawoun jump from 9th place to 5th with a 5-2 victory against the previous placeholders, Ittihad.
Although the game had started out slow for the first few minutes as both teams rushed into formations trying to figure their opponents out, this would not be the norm for long. Only five minutes into the game, midfielder Fahad Al Ansari broke the deadlock between the teams and put Ittihad in the lead. No lead is safe in the hotly contested Saudi Pro League though as Al-Taawoun’s own midfielder, Cedric Amissi, scored the equalizer only three minutes later to put the teams neck and neck once more.
Both teams started to formulate an attacking strategy against their opponents with Al-Taawon focusing on control over the wings and Ittihad doing their best to send their strikers in the box. In the 10th minute, a counter attack was developing for Al-Taawon with the ball floating down the wing and winger Jufain Al-Bishi rushing after it. Ittihad defender Ammar Al-Daheem got there before the play developed and knocked the ball out of play.
The ensuing corner actually resulted in a goal from forward Adam Mohammed Adam, who headed in cleanly into goal for a 2-1 lead against Ittihad. The following 10 minutes, Al-Taawoun focused on keeping the ball in their own half with a possession-first strategy and counter attacks soon followed during those 10 minutes. Only one of those ended up in the box during the 16th minute, and was saved by Ittihad’s keeper, Assaf Al-Qarni.
Itthad soon regained possession of the ball and employed their own tactics to keep possession away from their opponents. Their strategy relied more on movement as opposed to questionable passes and it seemed to work more as Ittihad had chances in the 21st minute (landing in El-Hadary’s hands), 25th minute (El-Hadary deflection leading to a second corner), and the 30th minute where El-Hadary once again stopped a shot on target from a free kick.
The first half was drawing to close and with Al-Taawoun in the lead, it had started sending up all available players up-field for a chance to give themselves a comfortable two goal advantage. Al-Taawoun would eventually receive what they had hoped for, with a goal from Adam scoring once again to give them the advantage heading into the break.
At the beginning of the second half, Egyptian Mahmoud Kahraba was hell-bent on trying to soften the blow his team had received in the first half. In both the 45th and 47th minute, Kahraba had two shots on goal but were deflected out of bounds, as the latter hit the post on its way out.
Ittihad’s control of the ball in the second half was undeniable at this point but the team couldn’t finish their opportunities at goal. Lead by Mahmoud Kahraba and Ammar Al-Najjar, Ittihad has numerous possessions which ended up with questionable calls inside the penalty box or near misses with defenders flocking in to send it out of play. Their struggles wouldn’t continue for long as striker Ahmed Akaichi shrunk the lead to 1 with a goal for Ittihad, making the score 3-2.
In the 80th minute, Abdulrahman Al-Ghamdi, who had recently come as a sub for winger for Abdulaziz El-Aryani landed a shot on target but wouldn’t score as the ball hit the post and landed out of play. Multiple substitutions in the ensuing 10 minutes slowed the game down significantly but one notable sub, Emad Meteb, had signaled that Al-Taawoun wasn’t ready to start protecting the ball in their own half. This substitution had looked to be successful as Meteb had crossed the ball into the box to Al-Ruwaili who scored easily but was unfortunately ruled offside. Not content with his first opportunity to contribute, Emad Meteb kept pushing and searching for ways to help his team further their sights on victory. In the 94th minute, the last minute of stoppage time, Emad Meteb had pushed the ball towards the box but would be stopped in his tracks by Ittihad’s keeper. Fortunately, substitute Saeed Al-Dossari capitalized on the open goal and scored, giving Al-Taawoun a final victory of 5-2.
Ittihad have fallen to sixth place with this loss and their next game comes on Saturday, March 10 against Al-Nassr, currently third in the league table. Al-Taawoun move up to fifth place after the win and face Al-Batin, who are placed eleventh in the league table.
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