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N’Golo Kanté Sent Off for His Reckless Challenge in Al-Ittihad’s 2-0 Defeat to Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League

N’Golo Kanté Sent Off for His Reckless Challenge in Al-Ittihad’s 2-0 Defeat to Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League

Two teams in the Saudi Pro League took on one another in the 2023/2024 AFC Champions League Quarterfinals yesterday, and the visiting Al-Ittihad side, led by ex-Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kanté, succumbed to the superiority of the current best team in the Saudi Arabian top-flight football side Al-Hilal at Kingdom Arena. The home side scored both of their goals in the 2-0 victory within the opening 45 minutes, and marching order given to ex-Chelsea and Leicester City central defensive midfielder N’Golo Kanté did not help in the visiting team’s endeavours in coming back into the game, meaning their chance of progressing into the next round of the competition now looks slim.


N’Golo Kanté’s Marching Orders Meant There Was No Way Back for Al-Ittihad

The game between two Saudi sides in the AFC Champions League Quarterfinals was quiet for the initial 40 minutes, until a foul inside the penalty box changed the dynamics of the matchup. Forward Aleksandar Mitrović was brought down in the dangerous zone by right-back Madallah Alolayan, and the referee awarded a spot kick to the home team without having to look at VAR for any confirmations. The 29-year-old Mitrović stepped up to take the penalty himself, and he was calm and collected to send the goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf to the wrong way for the opening goal of the game.

Al-Ittihad’s defence once again broken down moments after the game opener, this time via Salem Salem Al-Dawsari. The Saudi Arabia international who famously led his country to beat Argentina in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar had to thank former Barcelona right winger Malcom for his unselfish play after breaking away from the defensive backline due to a long ball from another Al-Hilal player. The 32-year-old Salem Al-Dawsari had no problem beating the goalkeeper and finding the back of the net to double Al-Hilal’s lead in this Asian club football competition.

Al-Ittihad tried to mount a comeback in the second half, until the lowlight moment spoiled their momentum. Playing in his first-ever AFC Champions League Round of 16 game, N’Golo Kanté saw his former teammate at Chelsea Kalidou Koulibaly had troubles in controlling the ball and decided to dispossess him from it. His effort eventually caught the Senegalese’s ankle, earning himself a yellow card at first glance. Nevertheless, upon VAR verifications, N’Golo Kanté’s penalisation turned from yellow to red, meaning Al-Ittihad could not stage any momentum in rallying themselves back into the game. The team in black and yellow jerseys would lose the game 2-0 to their fellow Saudi outfit Al-Hilal.

Elsewhere in the UEFA Champions League: Bayern 3-0 Lazio: Magnificent Harry Kane Saves Under-Fire Thomas Tuchel From Embarrassment with a Brace


N’Golo Kanté: Only the Second-Ever Red Card in His Entire Career

Known for his rather clean discipline record despite being a central defensive midfielder, the red card suffered by N’Golo Kanté that ultimately costed Al-Ittihad the game against Al-Hilal was only the Frenchman’s second-ever red card in his entire professional senior career that spanned 461 games in all competitions played for five clubs. It is also worth mentioning that the marching orders penalised towards N’Golo Kanté was his first straight red card, having only been sent off due to the accumulation of two yellow cards back in the days with French football club Stade Malherbe Caen.

In another AFC Champions League Quarterfinal first leg game between UAE Pro League’s Al-Ain versus Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, the Hernán Crespo-led side managed to secure a 1-0 advantage prior to the second leg at the Saudi Pro League outfit’s home ground next week. Much like the Al-Hilal-Al-Ittihad matchup, Al-Nassr were forced to play with 10 men for a certain period of time in the game following ex-Manchester City player Aymeric Laporte’s red card off a scuffle during the stoppage time of the second half. Feel free to read this detailed article for the much-anticipated AFC Champions League encounter here:


Al-Hilal’s Post-Match Conference After Triumph Over N’Golo Kanté’s Al-Ittihad

Manager Jorge Jesus could not hide his joy for leading Al-Hilal to another victory in the AFC Champions League, this time against fellow opponents in the Saudi Pro League. The 69-year-old Portuguese remarked: “We achieved another victory over a difficult competitor like Al-Ittihad, and this indicates our strength. We were able to score two goals in the first half, and we had the ability to score more than that. After N’Golo Kanté’s expulsion, the players felt that scoring more goals would be easy, which led to some complacency. The laxity after N’Golo Kanté’s expulsion almost resulted in conceding a goal from Al-Ittihad, and this is the defect of overconfidence.”

Echoing his head coach’s statement as well as responding to being a victim of N’Golo Kanté’s red-carded dangerous challenge, 32-year-old Senegal national football team skipper Koulibaly had this to add during the post-match conference: “It was a difficult game today, Ittihad are a good team. We got two goals in the first half and then we tried to control the game but it was difficult with their counterattack. But to win 2-0 at home is a good result and we will wait until the second game.”

For their next games in hand after the Al-Hilal-Al-Ittihad AFC Champions League clash, Al-Hilal will be leaving their home of Kingdom Arena and face Al-Riyadh at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium for a Saudi Pro League Matchday 23 fixture, while the losing side of yesterday’s continental cup tie Al-Ittihad will be waiting for the arrival of Al-Okhdood to Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium in the similar league encounter as Al-Hilal. Remember to watch these games using AsiaSport, the only name you need to bookmark for all things football and basketball matches, including those contests in the AFC Champions League as well as the Saudi Pro League.

Steven Mosier

"Eat, breathe and sleep sports" is the life motto of mine. My professional athlete career ended way earlier than I thought, but the passion remains till the present, which is why I am here writing you all the sports news you crave! Also, I am a huge fan of the Premier League as well the NBA.

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