Hidd and Sitra played out an absorbing 1-1 draw in a Nasser Bin Hamad Premier League relegation play-off match at the Khalifa Sport City last night.
Premier League champions just two seasons ago, Hidd experienced a steep downturn in their fortunes during the recently concluded 2021-22 season, finishing ninth out of 10 teams and staring at the depressing prospect of being demoted to Division Two for the next season.
The start to this match promised to add to their misery when, with the game having barely ticked into the seventh minute, Sitra’s Brazilian star Luiz Junior put his team ahead by crashing the ball past the outstretched left hand of the Hidd goalkeeper.
A sizeable, extremely noisy contingent of Sitra supporters were in raptures. But their celebration was short-lived because, just a few minutes later, Hidd left-back Talal Al-Shorouqi put the match back on even keel by scoring the equaliser.
It was time now for the Hidd supporters to add to the rising decibel levels inside the stadium as their loudspeakers came to life, with drums and trumpets being played endlessly.
It became increasingly clear, however, as the players went off at half-time, that Sitra had more than matched anything Hidd could throw at them – a disheartening reality check for a team that had won the first of their two Premier League titles in 2015-16 and, until this season, had consistently been considered among the leading contenders every year for Bahrain’s most prestigious football championship.
The situation didn’t change much in the second half with Sitra continuing to breach the Hidd defences. But their repeated attempts to take shots at goal were stymied by the excellent Hidd goalkeeper.
Hidd, meanwhile, had only themselves to blame for the draw after they squandered several scoring opportunities which could have put the match firmly out of Sitra’s reach. Their task, of trying to avoid relegation, has become harder now.
In the other match-up of the night, Budaiya defeated Malkiya 3-2 in a hard-fought game at the Bahrain National Stadium. Budaiya, who finished a spot above Hidd on the Premier League table, are also trying to avoid relegation while Sitra and Malkiya, who placed third and fourth respectively in Division Two, are hoping to make it into the top-tier league for the 2022-2023 season.
Each team will play the other three teams once each. The two teams that finish third and fourth will play in Division Two next season.