Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a penalty in the 10th minute of second-half stoppage time as Al-Hilal denied Cristiano Ronaldo's Al-Nassr victory in a 1-1 draw.

Mitrovic netted his 27th Saudi Pro League goal of the campaign after Sadio Mane was harshly judged to have fouled Saud Abdulhamid in the area.

Mane stuck out an arm to shield the ball, catching his opponent in the throat, though the contact appeared to have been outside of the box.

Mitrovic made no mistake to keep Al-Hilal's unbeaten campaign going.

The Serbian's spot-kick cancelled out Otavio's first-minute opener, with Ronaldo having set up his compatriot.

Champions Al-Hilal remain 12 points clear of Al-Nassr at the summit of the Pro League standings.

Data Debrief: Ronaldo the provider

Ronaldo leads the scoring charts in Saudi Arabia this season, though he had to settle for an assist on Friday.

That came from the only chance he created, with the 39-year-old limited to 25 touches, though he did have four shots.

Mohamed Sherif scored late on as Al-Ittihad's winless run in the Saudi Pro League stretched to four games after a 1-1 draw with Al-Khaleej.

Al-Ittihad have endured a miserable title defence, and with just two games remaining, the highest the big-spending, PIF-backed club can finish is fourth.

Muhannad Al Shanqiti put them ahead on the stroke of half-time, yet despite having a further eight shots and accumulating 1.07 xG in the second half, Al-Ittihad could not add another.

Their profligacy proved costly in the 81st minute, with Egypt international Sherif snatching an equaliser for 11th-placed Al-Khaleej.

Al-Tai moved out of the relegation zone with a surprise 3-1 win over seventh-placed Al-Fateh, with Bernard Mensah scoring twice.

Al-Raed, meanwhile, claimed a 1-0 win at Al-Wehda.

Data Debrief: Kante the creator?

On the day he received a surprising France recall, N'Golo Kante created three chances for Al-Ittihad, leading the team.

On the flip side, Kante only attempted one tackle, with the midfielder showing a different side to his game, not that it proved fruitful for his team.


Cristiano Ronaldo has no intention of stopping as he says he is still motivated to compete with the "young lions" coming through in the game.

Ronaldo is reportedly considering signing a contract extension to keep him at Al-Nassr until June 2026, taking him past his 41st birthday.

The Portugal international has scored 42 goals in 41 appearances for the Saudi Pro League club this season, and he insists he is still motivated to keep going.

Speaking on the Whoop podcast, he said: "I feel proud to have this age and still compete at the highest level. It's great, and it gives me motivation to carry on.

"If you look at my career for the last 20 years, my level is high. If you are top for 20 years, it's unbelievable.

"I do that, and I continue to do that. For me, it's a big achievement."

Ronaldo has scored an incredible 891 goals in his career and is the all-time leading scorer in men’s international football with 128 goals.

"My biggest motivation is to carry on," he added. "It's not easy to be at this level.

"To still push, to still motivate, to carry on, to score goals, to be in good shape, to compete with the young lions that are coming and that when they play against me, they want to show me that they are stronger and faster than me.

"You have to prepare very well, not just physically but mentally, too. This is the challenge.

"Talent without work is nothing and work without talent is nothing. They have to work together at the same time. I have both. I can't say that I have more of one than the other.

"Small details will make the difference. Consistency is the most difficult thing.

"Are you willing to do that? That's the main point, because everyone wants to be Cristiano, but doing it is difficult. Discipline is the most difficult thing."

Bruno Fernandes is reportedly drawing interest from Bayern Munich and Saudi Arabian clubs but Erik ten Hag remains confident the midfielder will stay at Manchester United.

The Portugal international, who joined the Red Devils from Sporting in January 2020, is said to be attracting attention from numerous clubs in the Saudi Pro League.

Bundesliga giants Bayern are also reportedly weighing up their options in attempting to sign Fernandes, though under-fire Ten Hag expects him to remain at Old Trafford.

When pressed at Tuesday's press conference on Fernandes' future, Ten Hag responded: "It is the same question as last week. So I answered.

"The same answer. Now in all the years he was, he was a tremendously important player for Manchester United and creating the most chances across the Premier League.

"So many assists, so many goals. It's clear he's a very important player for us."

Indeed, since his debut against Wolves on February 1, 2020, Fernandes leads United for chances created (644), goals (79) and assists (63) across all competitions.

In the same period, the 29-year-old also leads the way among Premier League players overall in chances created, ahead of Kevin De Bruyne (519), Trent Alexander-Arnold (424) and Pascal Gross (388).

Though Ten Hag is keen to keep Fernandes in Manchester, Raphael Varane has announced his intentions to leave the Red Devils at the end of the current season.

Casemiro is also said to be of interest in Saudi Arabia, where clubs are reportedly targeting moves for the likes of Mohamed Salah, De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

Al Hilal secured their fourth straight Saudi Pro League title after Aleksandar Mitrovic starred in Saturday's 4-1 thrashing of bottom side Al Hazm.

Faiz Selemani restored parity after Mitrovic's 15th-minute opener at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium, only for Jorge Jesus' hosts to roar back and be crowned champions with three games remaining.

Ahmed Al Juwaid's own goal handed the initiative back to the dominant Al Hilal, who led 4-1 at the break after Mitrovic added another to his tally and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was on target.

The second of Mitrovic's strikes took him to a team-leading 26 league goals this term as Al Hilal breezed to another title, moving an unassailable 12 points clear of Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr.

Jesus' side are unbeaten through all 31 games this season after securing their record-extending 19th top-flight crown in history, while Al Hazm need to win their last three matches to have any chance of staying up.

Al Hazm's relegation rivals Al Tai boosted their chances of survival in Saturday's earlier clash after a 1-1 draw away against Al Raed.

Al Tai are just a point away from 15th-placed Abha Club in their bid for top-flight safety after Ibrahim Al Nakhli's strike was cancelled out by Al Raed's Mohammed Fouzair in the second half.

Karl Toko Ekambi netted a hat-trick as Al-Ettifaq got back to winning ways in style with a 5-0 thrashing of Al-Ittihad in the Saudi Pro League on Friday.

He scored twice in four minutes at the end of the first half to send the visitors into the break 4-0 up before getting his third just 10 minutes after the break.

Seko Fofana had already given Steven Gerrard’s side the lead five minutes into the contest, while Moussa Dembele doubled their advantage from the penalty spot.

Al-Ittihad had the chances, but they could not find the back of the net, as they stayed fifth, but are now just six points above Al-Ettifaq. 

Data Debrief: Clinical finishers

Al-Ettifaq had five shots on target against Al-Ittihad, scoring with all of them while creating an xG of 3.62.

With his hat-trick against Al-Ittihad, Ekambi has now scored 11 goals for the season, netting more than once for the first time since joining the club.

Malcom’s stunning solo goal finished Al Hilal’s second-half comeback to earn a 2-1 win over Al Ahli in the Saudi Pro League on Monday.

The forward started his run from inside his own half before slotting in the winner, after teeing up Aleksandr Mitrovic for the equaliser just after the interval.

Feras Al Brikan had given Al Ahli the lead in the 30th minute, but the hosts could not hold onto it against the league leaders.

Al Hilal continue their unbeaten league campaign to a 30th match, moving 12 points clear at the top of the table, while Al Ahli remain in third, now 22 points off the AFC Champions League spot.

Data Debrief

Malcom was one of Al Hilal's most influential players; as well as playing a hand in both goals, he had the joint-most shots (five), and the joint-most shots on target (two), and created two chances for his team.

Al Ahli also struggled to cope with Mitrovic's threat, as the Serbian created an xG of 0.61 from his five shots, having 11 touches in the opposition box.

Cristiano Ronaldo crafted a decisive hat-trick as Al Nassr hammered Al Wedha 6-0 in Saturday's Saudi Pro League meeting.

Portugal veteran Ronaldo found the net twice in the first 12 minutes at Al Awal Park before completing his treble after the interval.

Sadio Mane teed up Ronaldo's third finish, as well as an 18th-minute strike from Otavio, who returned the favour for the Senegal international to score on the stroke of half-time.

Mohammed Al Fatil added a late sixth as Al Nassr recorded their seventh straight league win since their March 7 loss against Al Raed, moving them back within nine points of leaders Al Hilal.

Jorge Jesus's Al Hilal swept Al Tauwoon aside in a 3-0 away triumph on Friday for their fourth straight victory across all competitions.

Talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic opened the scoring at King Abdullah Sport City Stadium before Saud Abdulhamid and Saleh Alsherhi wrapped up a win that kept Al Hilal in charge of the title race.

There was no such fortune for fifth-placed Al Ittihad as they fell to a third straight defeat in all competitions after a 3-1 loss away against Abha.

Jota levelled after Grzegorz Krychowiak's 57th-minute penalty, only for Hassan Al-Ali and Fabian Noguera to power hosts Abha to a comfortable win.

Al Hilal moved 12 points clear of Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr at the top of the Saudi Pro League as Ruben Neves scored in a 3-1 win over Al Fateh on Friday.

Former Wolves star Neves slotted in from the penalty spot in the 74th minute, as Al Hilal completed a rapid comeback.

Having fallen behind to Lucas Zelarayan's 57th-minute opener, Al Hilal responded swiftly through Micheal before Salem Al Najdi fouled Mohammed Al Qahtani in the penalty area.

Ex-Barcelona winger Cristian Trello and Al Fateh coach Slaven Bilic were booked for their complaints, with Neves making no mistake, paving the way for Ali Al Bulayhi to seal victory in the 15th minute of an extended period of stoppage time.

Data Debrief

Al Hilal have now won 21 games on the spin in the league. They have scored 86 goals across their 28 matches this season, winning 26 in total.

They had 19 shots on Friday, accumulating 2.34 xG to Al Fateh's 0.25, with pass-master Neves creating three chances to go along with his goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo will serve a one-game suspension on Thursday after the Saudi Arabian Football Federation disciplined its star player for an offensive gesture at opposition fans.

Ronaldo is set to miss Al Nassr’s Saudi Pro League clash against Al Hazm after the country’s governing body took a hard-line approach to the Portuguese forward’s conduct during a 3-2 win over Al Shabab.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner had reportedly been subjected to persistent chants of ‘Messi’, in reference to his long-time La Liga rival, when he marked Al Nassr’s victory by cupping his ear and thrusting his hand towards his pelvis.

The moment did not appear in a live broadcast, but caught the attention of the SAFF after appearing via mobile phone footage on social media.

A spokesperson told PA news agency: “The Disciplinary and Ethics Committee at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation has issued a one-match ban to Cristiano Ronaldo as well as a 10,000 Saudi Riyal fine to SAFF and 20,000 SAR fine payable to the opposition club Al Shabab FC for ‘provoking fans’ or ‘inciting fans’ as per Article 57 of the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee at the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.”

The total monetary cost to the 39-year-old comes to less than £6,500, who is said to be earning more than £170million per year.

Local outlet Al-Riyadiya reported that Ronaldo had sought to explain his actions, citing a written statement which said: “I respect all clubs. The joy after the shot expresses strength and victory, and it is not shameful. We are used to it in Europe.”

Mark Clattenburg quit his role as a Premier League referee to take a senior position in Saudi Arabia on this day in 2017.

The Durham official had previously refereed high-profile events including the Euro 2016 final, as well as Champions League and FA Cup finals.

The 41-year-old’s move to the Middle East saw him take over from fellow Englishman and former Premier League referee Howard Webb as head of refereeing in Saudi Arabia.

Clattenburg told the Saudi Arabia Football Federation: “This is an important move forward. We have professional referees in the country that I am leaving, which has been a big positive.

“One thing I’d like to do is work with the refereeing team and the president to make this happen so that it will be successful for many, many years to come.”

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), who provide and train officials for the Premier League, English Football League and Football Association, paid tribute to Clattenburg.

The PGMOL said: “Mark is a talented referee, he has been a great asset to the English game and hopefully an inspiration to those who want to get into refereeing at the grass roots of the game.

“We understand this is an exciting opportunity for Mark as well as further underlining what high esteem English match officials are held throughout the world game.”

Clattenburg held the role for 18 months before returning to refereeing with a move to China in the Chinese Super League.

He was later appointed president of the Egyptian Referees Committee, but resigned in January 2023 after just five months in the role.

What the papers say

Raphael Varane is reportedly the latest big name attracting a wealth of interest from Saudi Arabia. The Daily Star says Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr are hoping to reunite the Manchester United defender with his former Real Madrid and Red Devils team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, with an offer believed to be in the region of £50million a year.

The Independent reports Kylian Mbappe‘s contract negotiations with Real Madrid have hit a stumbling block. According to the paper, the two parties are yet to come to terms on the 25-year-old striker’s wage package, with an agreement believed to be a way off. However, there is belief amongst all involved – including Mbappe’s current club Paris St Germain – that a deal to take the France captain to Spain will eventually be made.

And The Telegraph reports Aston Villa has reached a verbal agreement on a new long-term contract for Jamaica winger Leon Bailey.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Raphinha: Journalist Paul O’Keefe says on X the Barcelona attacker is being carefully monitored by Tottenham.

Hwang Ui-jo: The Nottingham Forest striker has agreed terms to spend the rest of the season on loan at Turkish side Alanyaspor, reports Turkish outlet Sports Digitale.

What the papers say

Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal are reportedly considering a second attempt to poach Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes. The Daily Mail, citing Portuguese outlet Record, says the Saudi side could make another run at luring the 29-year-old in the summer after failing to sign him in January.

Elsewhere, The Guardian reports Roy Hodgson is nearing the Crystal Palace exit following his side’s 4-1 loss to Brighton on Saturday. Chairman Steve Parish is said to be sounding out replacements to take over as manager, but is struggling to find a replacement willing to take over at this stage of the season.

The Liverpool Echo reports Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso is the clear frontrunner to take over as Liverpool manager at the end of the season.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Michael Olise: The Daily Mirror says Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag views the Crystal Palace midfielder as the club’s next marquee signing.

Benjamin Sesko: According to, Chelsea and AC Milan could target the RB Leipzig and Slovenia forward in the summer.

Jordan Henderson hinted at regrets over his move to Saudi Arabia as he was formally unveiled as an Ajax player on Friday.

The former Liverpool captain quit Saudi Pro League outfit Al-Ettifaq this week less than six months into a lucrative three-year deal.

The 33-year-old has faced fierce criticism over his career choices since last summer and, for the first time, he came close to admitting an error as he was presented at a press conference in Amsterdam.

“In life if you want to call them regrets or mistakes, you can call them that,” Henderson said at a press conference in Amsterdam. “But, at the same time, they’re only mistakes if you don’t learn from them.

“Looking back, at the time, obviously it was a big decision. It was a decision I felt was right for me and my family at the time, but things happen. Things change quickly in football.

“I had to make another decision and this is the one I felt was right decision for me. I felt the opportunity was too big to turn down, playing at this great football club.”

The failure of Henderson’s move to Saudi Arabia has not only negatively affected his reputation but also that of the country’s football league.

Henderson did not criticise the standard of the competition or the lifestyle he has experienced in recent months, but neither did he offer a ringing endorsement to any other players weighing up a switch.

Henderson, who has signed a two-and-a-half year deal at Ajax, said: “I would definitely not sit here and speak badly of the league or the clubs or anything like that. I’ve got full respect for the opportunity that I was given to go there.

“But everyone’s different. You look at people who are there, big players who are there now, who are loving every second of it, staying there for a long period of time.

“But you might get others that don’t settle or something happens in their private life, whatever it may be, and things change quickly.”

On his decision to leave, he added: “It had nothing to do with anything else other than a football decision. I felt it was a perfect opportunity for me to come to such a huge club.”

Having previously been a strong advocate of LGBTQ+ rights, Henderson was widely condemned for moving to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are illegal.

The huge wages he was reportedly offered also brought criticism he was putting money before morals.

He was booed by England supporters when he returned home to play for the international side last autumn.

The midfielder concedes that whole experience has been a bruising one.

“I’m not going to say I haven’t been hurt,” he said. “I understand it, but I do care. People might think I don’t but I actually do care about other people.

“I do think a lot about football and how I treat other people and have respect for other people. So it does hurt, of course, but at the same time I totally respect their opinions and how they view me as a person.

“I just had to obviously take it on the chin and that’s all I’ve continued to do. I’ve never tried to hurt anybody. That was never my intention, ever.

“If people feel a type of way towards me then all I can do is apologise for that. I’m hurt but it’s part and parcel of life and football.

“It makes you stronger and I just want to concentrate on getting back to playing football with Ajax and doing my best for this football club.”

Henderson will not be eligible to make his Ajax debut at home to RKC Waalwijk this weekend as he awaits a work permit but he is eager to get started.

He said: “I’ll eat, breathe and sleep Ajax and dedicate myself every single day, every single session to try to be better and help this team and this club be better.”

Jordan Henderson apologised for any hurt felt by the LBGT community over his move to Saudi Arabia outfit Al-Ettifaq at his Ajax welcome press conference in Amsterdam.

Henderson moved to Al-Ettifaq from Liverpool on a three-year contract last summer, and his decision to go to Saudi Arabia, where same-sex relationships are illegal, caused controversy in the UK as he had previously been a high-profile supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.

“If any people from that community feel let down or hurt I apologise,” said Henderson.

“If anyone was offended or feel as though I upset them, that’s on me, that was my decision and I apologise for that. It was never my intention.

“I just want to look forward now and concentrate on being the best player I can for Ajax. My beliefs have never changed and never will. Again I can only apologise if people feel let down.”

Henderson, 33, has signed a two-and-a-half year deal with the Eredivisie club after failing to settle at Saudi side Al-Ettifaq, who he joined six months ago and he described his move to Ajax as the “perfect opportunity” after cutting short his spell in Saudi Arabai.

“(Ajax) is one of the biggest clubs in the world, the biggest club in Holland and I felt as though it’s a great opportunity for me personally to come to a huge club, to try and help this club go forward and be as successful as possible.”

Henderson denied that there was a financial element to his decision to move to a Dutch club rather than return to England, and said he wanted to help Ajax – struggling by their standards in fifth place – return to the top.

“Don’t believe what you read in the press,” he said. “It had nothing to do with anything but football. I felt it was the perfect opportunity to come to such a huge club and showcase what I’ve tried to do my whole life – to dedicate myself to football.

“The welcome here has been incredible and I’m overwhelmed to be given the opportunity at a great football club and to repay the faith shown in me.

“Over the next two-and-a-half years I will give everything to get the club back on track and to be as successful as possible.”

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