The brigadier general … a Portuguese mixture that ends the nightmare of the “last meters”
The federations did not forget the nightmare of the final meters last season, so they set their sights on providing an exceptional and combative performance that paved the way for the championship that has been absent from their coffers since 2009.
Al-Ittihad won the league title for the ninth time in its history, one round before the end, after defeating Al-Fayhaa 3-0 on Saturday, thanks to a goal from defender Ahmed Sharahili and a brace from Brazilian Romarenho.
Al-Ittihad almost won the league last season, but it collapsed, starting in the 26th round, after it tied 4-4 against Al-Fateh, and lost 3-1 against its guest Al-Hilal, and 1-0 against Al-Tai, to lose the league lead in favor of its rival Al-Hilal.
But the federation quickly overcame its sorrows and signed Nuno Espirito Santo, the former coach of Tottenham Hotspur, to replace Romanian Cosmin Contra, to start the coach from Portugal, the search for the absent title.
Al-Ittihad had a strong start after achieving seven victories and not losing in the first ten matches, to achieve the best start for the team in the professional league in the last ten years.
The Portuguese Santo developed the defensive style of Al-Ittihad, which helped him clinch the summit after winning 1-0 over Al-Nasr last March, in a match in which he kept his net for the seventh time in a row, which is the longest series in his history in the competition.
And this toughness appeared in the team receiving only 13 goals in 29 games, which is the best defensive record for a champion team since the Saudi League became consisting of 30 matches.
Entering the last meters of the current season, Al-Ittihad surprisingly lost 2-1 to its host Al-Taawoun in the 25th round after six consecutive victories, which made the fans fear a repeat of last season’s scenario, especially after it neglected its progress by two goals and tied 2-2 with Al-Hilal after A 4-0 win over Abha.
However, Santo’s squad learned the lesson well from last season and held on and achieved two consecutive victories over Al-Batin and Al-Fayhaa, to win the title and participate in the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia next December.
Captain Ahmed Hegazy was absent from the ranks of Al-Ittihad only once throughout the season, and it was against Al-Raed due to the suspension, and it was one of the most important reasons for the cohesion of the back line in a way that made the Egyptian defender hugely popular among the fans.
Although Hegazy accidentally scored an own goal that was behind Al-Ittihad’s loss to Al-Hilal in the semi-finals of the King’s Cup, he won a lot of support from Al-Ittihad fans on social media.
The 32-year-old defender confirmed that the Al-Ittihad players felt “comfortable” with Santo, which was reflected in the performance, as he lost only twice throughout the season, and decided the title before entering the last round.
“We achieved our first goal, which is to win the league,” Hegazy said after winning the title to the Saudi Sports Company TV channel.
And if Commander Hegazy contributed to the solidity of Al-Ittihad’s defense along with his colleague Sharahili, the champion owes a lot in his attacking strength to the duo Abdul Razzaq Hamdallah and the Brazilian Romarinho, who scored the decisive goals.
Hamdallah, 32, won the league title for the second time after leading Al-Nasr to win the title for the last time in 2019.
The Moroccan striker scored 20 goals to top the list of top scorers in the Saudi League and is on his way to winning the award for the third time.
“This victory is the result of great work, not only the current season, but also the previous season,” Hamdallah said, placing the Moroccan flag on his shoulders to celebrate the victory and crowning the title.
Despite the variety and abundance of Hamdallah’s goals, his most expensive goal was last month against Al-Shabab in the 16th minute of stoppage time, when he scored his second goal and led Al-Ittihad to win 2-1 and took an important step towards the title.
And if Hamdallah’s imprint was clear in the coronation procession, the role of his Brazilian colleague Romarinho was no less important in the decisive moments.
The Brazilian player was the owner of the precious victory goal, with great individual skill, with a score of 1-0 over victory, and snatching the summit from the top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo team last March, and he also scored the winning goal with the same result on the subcontractor in the last round, and before today he left a new imprint by scoring two goals. The second and third guarantee the restoration of the title after a long absence.