Al-Shabab v Al-Nassr, Saturday 14th January 2023, 8.30pm

I always get a buzz when I see the floodlights for a ground, even more so when it’s a night match and I’m drawn in like a moth. I wasn’t the only one keen to get inside and there was a fifty yard queue along the wall leading to the main gate. Fortunately, I’d bought a ticket for the far end of the big stand and that meant I went in at the gate further around the stadium. There were no queues at all at that one.

I had the Al-Nassr fans to my left, probably about three hundred in total. That struck me as quite a poor turnout considering that they had sold twenty-two thousand tickets in under an hour for their upcoming home game featuring Ronaldo’s debut. Clearly a lot of those people are following the player and not the club.

I’ve noticed a few fellas here wearing what I presume are camel skin coats. The lack of seams suggests a larger animal than a sheep or goat and, given the location, camel seems plausible. They remind me of the afghan coat I had as a kid. I bought it via mail order from an advert in, I think, the NME around 1980 and a good ten years after the rest of the world had stopped wearing them. If it rained, it smelt like a wet dog making me wonder just what type of skins had been used to make it.

Al-Shabab were in all white and went into the game in third place, with Al-Nassr, in yellow and blue, top of the league. It’s tight at the top though and a two-goal win for Al-Shabab would have moved them into first place on goal difference. They had the better chances in the first half, but it was goalless at the break.

There wasn’t a great deal to excite the four and a half thousand strong crowd until the last ten minutes. An Al-Nassr player volleyed wide when it really was easier to score and in added time Al-Shabab had a header disallowed for offside.

Former Arsenal goalie David Ospina went down injured after the disallowed ‘goal’. I thought he was just trying to run down the clock as Al-Nassr had been doing for most of the game, but he’d busted his elbow.

The Al-Nassr sub goalie warmed up by booting the ball as far as he could rather than practicing his catching or doing any stretching. It turned out to be exactly what was required as he came on, wellied the free-kick up the field to restart the game and then walked off without touching the ball again as the ref blew for full-time. Mission accomplished for Al-Nassr who stayed at the top of the table in their final pre-Ronaldo game.

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