How Al Hilal won the Saudi Pro League title

Mohamed Shalaby - | Sports

Al Hilal has dominated the Saudi Pro League since defeating Al Shabab to win the championship in Week 8 of the season, and they achieved a record-tying 19th domestic crown on Saturday. For a while now, it had seemed certain that Hilal would win the title; a convincing 4-1 victory over Al Hazm proved it.

Throughout the 2023–24 season, Hilal has been a merciless, winning machine. He famously broke the previous record by winning 34 straight games across all competitions, 20 of which were in the Saudi Pro League. The club led by Jorge Jesus has the opportunity to finish the season undefeated if it can win its final three games, the first of which is against an injured Al Nassr squad.

While the all-or-nothing drama of a cup win is always beloved by football fans, a league victory undoubtedly provides elite players and managers with the greatest sense of fulfillment. Football seasons are lengthy and demanding; winning at the end calls for a variety of skills and heightens the sense of accomplishment.

Here, Al Arabiya English delves into three essential components that led to Al Hilal's championship victory.

The Saudi Pro League was crowded with high-profile additions last summer. Al Hilal, in particular, contributed significantly to a huge shift in the football landscape in the Kingdom by making some big transfers. But, its acquisitions were more than simply big names; they actually had an impact. It is evident from Al Ittihad's hesitant defence of the Saudi Pro League title that bringing in big stars isn't always a surefire method to win.

But Jesus has the deft touch of a master tactician, making sure Hilal's fresh recruits quickly bonded into a formidable team. Senegal's powerful center back Kalidou Koulibaly has aided Morocco's goalkeeper Bono, who has been a model of consistency between the posts by skillfully marshaling the defense in front of him.

With 11 and 12 assists apiece, Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have been an incredible midfield duo. Neves is the team's midfield workhorse; he advances the ball quickly while also creating magical moments with precise set-piece passes and inventive through-balls. Milinkovic-Savic, on the other hand, has emerged as the league's standout player of the year thanks to his superb box-to-box displays, endless work ethic, and 11 goals from midfield.

Aleksandar Mitrovic has led the squad well as an attacker. This season, the powerful striker has been a constant threat to opposing defenses, and under normal circumstances, his 26 goals would have been sufficient to win the Saudi Pro League's Golden Boot. It is a higher total than that of the previous three winners, Bafetimbi Gomis, Odion Ighalo, and Abderrazak Hamdallah. Only the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo has prevented Mitrovic from being the division's top scorer.

Even though the new additions have fit right in, Jesus has also been able to rely on Saudi mainstays like Saud Abdulhamid, who has shown to be a valuable asset due to his remarkable ability to impact both attack and defense, and Ali Al Bulayhi, who is Koulibaly's ideal defensive partner. For Hilal, Abdulhamid and Al Bulayhi, the two defenders have been a constant, appearing in 48 and 46 games across all competitions, respectively.

Captain Salem Al Dawsari has had another fantastic season, scoring 13 goals and dishing out five assists. Mohammed Kanno, the midfielder, has filled in on a regular basis and has always performed wonderfully, and Saleh Al-Shehri, the striker, has successfully filled in for Mitrovic when needed.

Al Hilal hasn't exactly had it easy this season, and the real measure of a winning squad is how they handle hardship. The teams from Jesus have won five games and drawn one after rallying from behind six occasions. While Al Fayha held on for a draw in August, Al Ittihad (twice), Al Fateh, Al Riyadh, and Al Shabab all led Hilal before being overrun.

Hilal has had to dig deep in both home and away games against longtime rivals Al Ittihad; in Riyadh, they fell behind to a goal from N'Golo Kante before rallying to win 3-1. But the opening match in Jeddah in September was maybe the most important event of the season. Ittihad had a 3-1 lead at the break, but Hilal's thrilling 4-3 defeat was sealed by goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Salem Al-Dawsari in the second half. In retrospect, the game symbolized the passing of the baton from the 2022–23 champion to this season's winner.

Hilal most blatantly displayed its unwavering spirit in March. Hilal was trailing in three of its four games during a period when a packed schedule due to continental commitments caused the team's schedule to be unbalanced. However, the team managed to turn each game around and end the month with 12 points out of a possible 12.

Late goals have also marred Hilal's season, which is another indication that this is a side that plays to the very end. It's amazing and a credit to the players' perseverance that 26 of the team's 95 league goals this season have come after the 80th minute. Some of these objectives have been as simple as reversing the tide in games that have already been won, but others have included significant interventions. Malcom's goal in the 89th minute helped Hilal defeat Al Ahli 2-1 last week, and Michael's stoppage-time winner against Damac sealed the victory. Al Taawoun and Al Fayha were also defeated by late strikes earlier in the season.

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Mohamed Shalaby
Mohamed Shalaby
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