About an hour earlier than kick-off, the Islamic name to prayer echoed by means of a close-by speaker within the compact, bowl-shaped stadium.
Officials drenched in sweat stood on the athletics observe waving their arms enthusiastically and rehearsing chants with excited schoolchildren forward of a sport that was anticipated to have an attendance of about 15,000, with 11,000 seats left unturned.
The nighttime temperature was 36 levels Celsius, so humid it felt like the previous few seconds of a steam bathtub session, in an atmosphere that resembled an Indian cricket floor greater than a Premier League enviornment.
Cameramen took their locations and put moist towels on their heads. Outside, peddlers traded merchandise virtually completely with the colours of the visiting workforce, who had almost as many followers because the hosts indoors.
This was not Liverpool. This was not Anfield. This was not Sunderland. This was the Prince Mohammed bin Fahad bin Abdulaziz Stadium, the place Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson took the primary steps of their Saudi careers at Al-Ettifaq on a steamy night time on the nation’s east coast.
Steven Gerrard received off to a successful begin with Al-Ettifaq supervisor with a 2-1 win over Al-Nassr
Just three minutes and thirty-three seconds after kick-off, the magnitude of the duty introduced itself as the massive weapons of Riyadh’s Al-Nassr, with out an injured Cristiano Ronaldo, took the lead due to an previous good friend.
Sadio Mane’s journey to the Middle East has gone comparatively unnoticed within the spending spree and none of Gerrard’s defenders have seen him right here, as he snuck in from shut vary to get house.
The away sport, the place about 2,000 folks gathered, was celebrated, as have been massive yellow luggage within the house sections. This felt like a smaller membership towards a relative large.
The first half was low high quality. That was comprehensible for a a lot modified Al-Nassr, who was concerned in an exhausting victory in additional time within the Arab Club Champions Cup remaining on Saturday night time. But Gerrard, arms on hips and wearing black, appeared pissed off as he patrolled the sting of his tools room, yelling directions and clapping his arms to no avail.
At least there was some fame. Twice Henderson tried his air by means of balls, however right here there was no Salah to run in the direction of and the goalkeeper got here and rallied on each events. He additionally turned within the space, despatched a defender to the outlets, however misplaced his cross over the crossbar.
Gerrard had hinted that this was a giant job. He is just not with a superpower and should earn a part of his mammoth wage at halftime.
Dammam, the house of Al-Ettifaq, already has an integral place in Saudi historical past. It was right here, in 1938, when a workforce of drillers from California lastly hit the wealthy oil vein that might change the destiny of the nation. It’s a metropolis constructed on that oil, an enormous Texas of the desert. But from a soccer perspective, there have been powerful years.
Al-Ettifaq gained the league twice within the Eighties, however there was no title since. Henderson will know that feeling, however it stays to be seen if he will be a part of a celebrated workforce that breaks that run.
But there was luck. Shortly after the restart – by which Gerrard (and his translator) presumably had spoken harsh phrases – Henderson fired a nook kick into the penalty space and Al-Nassr keeper Nawaf Alaqidi, who appeared to have misplaced the flexibility to catch, touched it with none stress a ball. . The Swede Robin Quaison tapped in.
On 52 minutes Al-Ettifaq had the lead as Alaqidi hit one other cross and this time Moussa Dembele, previously of Celtic, scrambled it house,
The guests pressed however couldn’t discover a response. Henderson, together with his shirt taped to his chest, left an ovation after 87 minutes. For a 33-year-old who covers each blade, the remainder of the scorching summer season will likely be a tricky introduction.
Fourteen minutes have been added, sufficient time for Mane to disallow the equalizer for offside.
It wasn’t fairly, however this was an excellent begin. This was not Liverpool, however it was three factors.