A late goal in the second half by Ali Hassan, minutes after he came on as a substitute, propelled Riffa to a hard-fought 1-0 win over defending champions Khaldiya at the Bahrain National Stadium on match-day eight of the 2023-24 Nasser bin Hamad Premier League last night.
This was 14-time champions Riffa’s fourth win in six games this season and pushed them to joint-second in the 12-team table’s standings with 13 points, alongside Khaldiya and East Riffa who also have the same tally, but both have played two games more.
Al Ahli lead the table with 14 points from eight matches.
Khaldiya, for whom this was their first loss of the season, were left to rue many missed chances, including one bizarre near-miss in the 31st minute when Brazilian midfielder Gleison Moreira headed the ball towards the Riffa goal, off a cross from the left by Mahdi Humaidan, from just feet away with goalkeeper Abdulkarim Abdulla wrong-footed only to see it bounce before the goal-line allowing Riffa’s Hamad Al Shamsan to clear it before the ball could bounce inside.
Earlier, when the game started, both sides failed to capitalise on good opportunities to score with Khaldiya finding Abdulla’s midriff on two occasions and Riffa captain Komail Al Aswad sending the ball wide of the Khaldiya goal off two free kicks.
With four minutes of injury time added to the first half, Riffa were denied a goal in the 49th minute when Majdi Al Attar was declared off-side.
Riffa had another chance to go ahead in the second half but Al Aswad sent the ball wide of the post again after dodging past three defenders in the 57th minute.
And, in the 72nd minute, Riffa’s Brazilian midfielder Vinicius Vargas also sent the ball wide of the right post.
But Vargas made up for it 15 minutes later by sending a deft sideways pass just outside the Khaldiya box to Hassan whose powerful, left-footed shot sent the ball screaming past Khaldiya goalkeeper Mohammed Al Gharabli as he dived to his right.
In the other Premier League game last night, Sitra defeated Al Shabab 2-1 in another riveting contest at the Muharraq Stadium.
Spurred by first-half goals by Amir Roustei (16th minute) and Alexander Amponsah (43rd) Sitra led 2-0 at half-time.
A fine goal by James Olufade gave Al Shabab a sliver of hope in the 83rd minute but Sitra managed to hold them off, despite seven minutes being added on for injury time.