Al-Hilal v Al-Fateh, Tuesday 14th March 2023, 9pm.

Al-Hilal’s chances of winning the league may be gone but they could still end the season with a couple of trophies. Their Champion’s League final is a few weeks away and this game against Al-Fateh was a quarter-final in the King’s Cup. Tickets went on sale for all areas and so I took the opportunity to watch from the upper tier of the big, uncovered stand.

The queues to get in were slow, despite me having picked the gate that usually has the shortest lines. The delay was mainly due to people not having their apps open with the ticket showing. It wasn’t helped by the lack of queueing etiquette with numerous people pushing past me or, even when remaining behind, shoving their phone beyond me to be scanned. In frustration I curtly asked the fella with the scanner if I was invisible. He was very apologetic which made me feel like a dickhead. Again.

I took a seat three rows from the back where a pleasant breeze kept it cool. The high position meant that I could just about watch the entire proceedings without moving my head. The home singing fans are usually in this stand in the tier below but for this game at least some of them had relocated to the stand opposite. I didn’t notice any away fans. As the game went on the gaps around me were filled with late arrivals. You’d think a 9pm start would be sufficiently late for everyone to make kick-off.

Al-Hilal took the lead a quarter of an hour in with a VAR awarded pen that nobody had even appealed for. An Al-Fateh tapped in equalizer soon afterwards caused a nearby kid who had spent the game scoffing sunflower seeds, to shriek. The home side regained the lead early in the second half, but then soon went down to ten men. It was all quite nervy until Ighalo notched a third a few minutes from time to seal the place in the semi-final.

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