Al-Shabab v Abha, Tuesday 14th February 2023, 6pm

With the short trip to Spain over, it was back to Saudi Arabia and another game at the Prince Faisel bin Fahd Stadium. This one was a home fixture for Al-Shabab and the big surprise was that the tickets that to date have cost me two-hundred riyals a time were only ten riyals for this match. I wondered whether it was to try and draw in those couples wondering how to celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’m told, a bit like Christmas and Halloween, it is becoming something that local businesses have realized is ripe for commercialization.

I had some stuff to do, so didn’t quite get to the ground in time for kick-off. In addition to the large reduction in price I noticed that the ticket offices were open. Maybe someone is making an effort to increase attendances and include those who like to pay cash on the day rather than having to buy online.

Once inside I concluded that the changes had made little difference. There were still fewer than four thousand people there, despite Al-Shabab being in contention for the title. I didn’t notice too many date-night couples either, although there were more children in the ground than previously. Hopefully the drop in ticket price is here to stay and they will get to attend more frequently.

Another change that I noticed was that Al-Shabab’s Polish midfielder Grzegorz Krychowrak had dropped back from midfield to central defence. He’s one of the players that I keep an eye on, mainly because he’s readily identifiable, but also because I saw him play for Lokomotiv Moscow when I was living in Russia. He did ok in a deeper role, although as a defensive midfielder he would often slip back into defence as cover anyway.

Al-Shabab took the lead twenty minutes in, with a shot drilled in low from the edge of the box. They had a couple of other good chances in the first half that would have killed the visitors off including one that hit the underside of the bar, but they didn’t take them.

The crowd seemed lively enough to me, but someone clearly wasn’t satisfied and there was a quick burst of fake cheering played through the speaker system. I remember Mark Page doing it during one of the Boro’s European games and thought it was cringeworthy then. If only that were the worst of his crimes.

The clinching second goal came ten minutes into the second half and the win took Al-Shabab three points clear of Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad at the top of the table, albeit having played three games more than both their rivals. It’s promising to be a decent battle for the title and maybe the reduced prices will get a few more fans in to see it.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: