Al-Nassr v Al-Khaleej, Monday 8th May 2023, 7pm

So many of the games here seem to start around 9pm. That’s understandable given the heat, but it makes for a very late evening, particularly when there’s a post-match taxi ride involved. This one had a much more sociable kick-off time of 7pm, although the trade-off was the forty degree heat. The initial ticket frenzy that had greeted Ronaldo’s arrival had long gone and so despite some rush hour traffic I was able to get to the Mrsool Stadium in about forty minutes.

My season ticket entitles me to enter by a gate without a body scanner and avoid being searched. As you can buy diet coke inside the stadium it’s a notional benefit only, but I like the idea that if you have a season ticket you can be trusted not to bring anything untoward into the ground with you.

Mind you, I don’t obey all of the stadium rules. I was walking around the concourse and noticed that one of the stairways had no stewards checking tickets. I’m always interested in watching games from different viewpoints and so I made my way in and found a seat in a fairly empty section. I was at the other end of the ground to where I normally sit, high up behind a small group of around sixty away fans who had taken up positions down at the front.

The fixture was more meaningful than some I’ve been to recently. League leaders Al-Ittihad had lost their last match and so a home win would allow Al-Nassr to draw level with them at the top, albeit having played a game more. Visitors Al-Khaleej were third from bottom with just two points separating them from the two-team relegation zone. Even a point would be a great outcome for them.

Al-Khaleej made an early impact, clattering Ronaldo in the opening moments and then going a goal up after only three minutes.

Al-Nassr equalized on the quarter hour but rarely played with any conviction. Al-Khaleej’s timewasting stopped them getting into any sort of rhythm and Ronaldo got more and more pissed off as the evening went on. He had a couple of efforts disallowed and even nine minutes of added time at the end wasn’t sufficient for them to nick a win.

The away fans in front of me celebrated their point, which may very well be vital come the end of the season, whilst the two points dropped meant that most Al-Nassr fans were on their way home long before the players had left the pitch.

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