Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson marked their Saudi Pro League debut with a comeback victory over Al Nassr, who had most of their star names missing from the matchday squad. Sadio Mane gave Al Nassr the lead inside just four minutes, but Al Ettifaq bounced back with two quickfire goals at the start of the second half. Express Sport takes a look at four main talking points from the match.
Henderson feeling the heat
All eyes were going to be on Henderson in his first game since moving to Saudi Arabia and he will want to quickly forget his first few minutes in the Saudi Pro League. Henderson was the guilty party in giving the ball away for Al Nassr’s opener and he was unable to make amends as he tried to track back before Mane tapped in for the game’s opening goal inside four minutes.
It failed to get much better for the former Liverpool captain as he struggled to make too much of an impact in the opening 45 minutes. Henderson managed to calm things down in the second half to control the midfield area more, but he couldn’t last the full match with Gerrard pulling off his captain before the 14 minutes of stoppage time.
Too easy for Mane
It didn’t take Mane too long to open his Saudi Pro League account with a comfortable finish from six yards out. The former Liverpool and Bayern Munich star will have his work cut out trying to overshadow Ronaldo in the same team.
But the Senegal international took the reins in Ronaldo’s absence and led the line impressively. He’ll expect even more service when Al Nassr are back to full strength though.
Al Ettifaq haven’t won the Saudi Pro League since 1987 with the likes of Al Hilal, Al Nassr and Ittihad Club all dominating in recent years. They were very much a mid-table team last year, but Gerrard managed to get his side up and running with an impressive comeback against Al Nassr to start their season.
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For Gerrard to keep any hopes of a managerial career beyond Saudi Arabia alive then he simply has to deliver with Al Ettifaq and he got off to a strong start. The summer signings certainly had an impact with Vitinho impressing while Jack Hendry and Moussa Dembele also making their debuts.
A lack of stars
Al Ettifaq may have had their full squad available to them but it was noticable that Al Nassr had most of their star names missing. Marcelo Brozovic, Alex Telles and Seko Fofana all joined Ronaldo on the sidelines as Al Nassr had to rely on Mane to do most of the work up top.
After a bright start from the Senegal international, he soon cut an alienated figure as Al Ettifaq’s quality took the fore.
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