KHAMIS MUSHAIT — In a surprising turn of events, Al-Ittihad Club, the defending champions of the Saudi Pro League, faced a disappointing defeat at the hands of Damac, losing 3-1 in the Saudi professional league tournament. The match took place at Prince Sultan Stadium, the home ground of Damac, located in Khamis Mushait in the southern Asir region.
This defeat was particularly painful for Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Roshn League Champions, as they prepare to meet Auckland City in the Club World Cup opener on December 12. The loss marked the first defeat for Al-Ittihad since the arrival of Argentine coach Marcelo Gallardo, who took over from Portuguese coach Nuno Espirito Santo. Gallardo's unbeaten streak of three games came to an end with this unexpected setback.
Despite the absence of Karim Benzema, recovering from an injury, Al-Ittihad managed to secure a temporary tie with Abderrazak Hamdallah converting a penalty. However, Damac's Georges-Kevin N’Koudou scored a brace, and goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe accidentally scored on his own net, resulting in a 3-1 victory for Damac.
With over half of the tournament yet to be played, Al-Ittihad currently holds the fourth position with 28 points, trailing six points behind Al-Nassr. Damac, led by former Al-Ittihad coach Cosmin Contra, climbed to sixth place with 24 points.
The match saw N’Koudou giving Damac the lead in the 12th minute, Hamdallah equalizing for Al-Ittihad with a penalty, and N’Koudou regaining the lead for Damac. Damac's third goal came in the second half when a powerful shot from Tariq Hamed hit the crossbar, bounced off goalkeeper Grohe's back, and ended up in the net.
Despite efforts from Al-Ittihad, including saves by Grohe and near misses by Nicolae Stanciu, Damac secured the victory in a match that will be remembered for its unexpected twists and turns.