AL KHALDIYA clinched the Nasser Bin Hamad Premier League title for the first time in the club’s short history following a 1-1 draw against relegation-bound Bahrain Club last night at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town.
Having come into the last game of the season level on 41 points with Manama, Al Khaldiya needed to either win the match outright – which would have netted them three points – or, as they ended up doing, simply draw it to gain the one point that would push them into the lead. A loss would have meant that Manama would be declared champions because of having won the two head-to-head encounters in the 2022-23 season between the two teams.
The match got off to a fast-paced start, with Al Khaldiya getting the opportunity to score an early goal in the fifth minute from a good cross by Ismael Abdullatif, only for Sami Frioui to head the ball over the crossbar.
Barely a minute later, Al Khaldiya were at it again, with Mohamed Sulaiman’s long-range shot ending up too high.
Not content to just lay low, Bahrain Club had an opportunity to take an unlikely lead almost immediately, with Naji Fathi’s shot from outside going wide.
In the 15th minute, Mahdi Humaidan took a shot from distance that ended up high and wide.
Bahrain Club had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 21st minute with a shot on target from the right by Yourman Valencia which was held by Al Khaldiya goalkeeper Alsayed Alawi.
Frioui then cut in from the left five minutes later and took a strong shot which just barely ended up in the side netting.
Al Khaldiya finally broke the deadlock at the half-hour mark, with veteran striker Ismail Abdullatif’s well-struck free kick finding the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Frioui continued to be a nuisance and almost doubled his team’s lead four minutes later, only for his header from Sulaiman’s cross to once again end up over the bar.
Three minutes later, Humaidan’s shot from the left was saved by Bahrain Club goalkeeper Yusuf Habib.
Bahrain Club then stunned the opposition in the 40th minute, with Valencia scoring against the run of play by dribbling past the Al Khaldiya goalkeeper to level the score for the relegation-threatened team.
With momentum on their side, they almost took the lead just before halftime with a shot from the right from captain Abdulla Mubarak, which was saved by Alawi to end the first half 1-1.
Al Khaldiya entered the second half determined to take the lead again, with Humaidan’s shot from outside the box going over the crossbar in the 49th minute.
Another chance came less than a minute later with Mohamed Sulaiman’s volley being saved by the goalkeeper.
Al Khaldiya continued to push for a goal throughout the remainder of the second half. But they were constantly frustrated by some very solid defending from Bahrain Club.
The underdogs had an opportunity to take the lead in the 75th minute with a free kick from captain Abdulla Mubarak, which was saved by Alawi.
That save proved to be his most important of the season, as, following a subdued 15 minutes, the match ended 1-1 to hand Al Khaldiya the league title.
The title comes less than three years after the club’s founding in October 2020, with Al Khaldiya not only being given the newly unveiled league trophy, but also prize money worth BD75,000.
The result also means that Bahrain Club have been officially relegated to the Second Division for next season, with East Riffa and Al Hala playing in the upcoming relegation/promotion playoffs against A’ali and Al Ittifaq.
Supreme Council for Youth and Sports first deputy chairman, General Sports Authority chairman and Bahrain Olympic Committee president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa presented the newly unveiled league trophy to the winners.
- His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa congratulated Al Khaldiya on winning the title.