MAKKAH — Al Ittihad clinched their first win with Argentine coach Marcelo Gallardo in the Saudi Professional League on Thursday, overpowering Al Khaleej 4-2 in the 15th round.
This triumph comes after a draw against Al Ettifaq in the previous round, marking Gallardo's inaugural match after replacing Portuguese Nuno Santo.
This victory propels Al Ittihad's ascent in point accumulation, temporarily narrowing the point gap with the league leaders. They now stand at 28 points, securing the fourth position. Conversely, Al Khaleej remains at 13 points, holding the fourteenth position.
The match took an unfortunate turn for Al Ittihad when their star player, Frenchman Karim Benzema, left the field due to injury, prompting a substitution in the 38th minute.
Al Ittihad initiated the goal spree with an early strike by Brazilian Coronado in the 9th minute, courtesy of a precise pass from Karim Benzema, marking Al Ittihad's opening goal.
The defending champions of the previous season, Al Ittihad, earned a penalty, confirmed by VAR, which Karim Benzema expertly converted in the 29th minute. Unfortunately, Benzema had to exit the game later due to injury.
Moments before the end of the first half, Al Khaleej secured a penalty, taken by Khaled Nari and successfully placed in the Brazilian Grohe's net.
Penalties continued to play a significant role in the match, with Al Ittihad being awarded another penalty in the 65th minute, confirmed by VAR. Abdulrazzaq Hamadallah took the penalty and strengthened his team's lead.
Returning to Al Ittihad's squad after Santo's departure, Abdul Rahman Al-Abood made his mark in the fourth goal with a clever pass to Zakaria Hasawi, who penetrated and shot the ball past the goalkeeper in the 74th minute.
Although Fawaz Al-Turais of Al Khaleej reduced the deficit with a late goal, the match concluded with Al Ittihad securing a well-deserved victory.
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