KHAMIS MUSHAIT — Al-Ittihad Club, the defending champions of the Saudi Pro League, suffered a humiliating defeat from Damac 3-1 in the Saudi professional league tournament. The match was held at Prince Sultan Stadium, the home ground of Damac, in Khamis Mushait in the southern Asir region.

The defeat was painful for the Saudi Roshn League Champions who are going to meet the Club World Cup opener against Auckland City on Tuesday, Dec. 12.

It was the first defeat for the Jeddah team since the arrival of Argentine Marcelo Gallardo as the head coach, replacing the Portuguese Nuno Espirito Santo. Gallardo’s winning streak got a curveball as the defeat ended his unbeaten run of three games since he arrived in Jeddah two weeks ago.

Without Karim Benzema, who is recovering from the injury suffered last Thursday, the temporary tie for the team was converted by Abderrazak Hamdallah from a penalty, while Georges-Kevin N’Koudou scored a brace and goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe scored the ball on his own fence to close the result.

With a little more than half of the tournament to be played, Al-Ittihad is in fourth position with 28 points, six points behind Al-Nassr, which has one game less, the last to enter the group stage of the Asian Champions League. Damac, led by former Al-Ittihad coach Cosmin Contra, raised its score to 24 points, advancing to sixth place.

N’Koudiu gave Damac the lead in the 12th minute of the match after a counterattack in which the Cameroonian striker overtook defender Luis Filipe, who fell injured while trying to catch the ball, and he raced towards the goal and shot into the top corner of the net.

The pain of Al-Ittihad increased after Felipe left due to injury, leaving his place to Muhannad Al-Shanqiti. Al-Ittihad equalized through Abdul Razzaq Hamdallah in the third minute of injury time in the first half from a penalty kick awarded by the referee after Marwan Al-Sahafi fell after being obstructed by goalkeeper Muhammad Jassim.

But Nkoudou raised Damac’s lead again with a powerful shot into the middle of the goalpost from close range after taking advantage of a wrong clearance from Al-Shinqiti to cross the ball.

Immediately after the start of the second half, Damac midfielder Tariq Hamed fired a powerful shot from long range that hit the crossbar, bounced off goalkeeper Grohe's back, and went into the net. Although the goal was credited to the Al-Ittihad goalkeeper, Al-Masry Hamed celebrated the goal.

Nicolae Stanciu almost extended the lead to Damac when he shot a strong ball that Grohe deflected for a corner in the 71st minute before the Romanian player tried again, but his shot passed near the left post 11 minutes before the final whistle.

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