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Al-Ittihad close gap on Al-Ahli in Saudi Pro-League race for third

 Karim Benzema missed yet another penalty on Friday, but that didn't stop Al-Ittihad from defeating Al-Fayha 3-1, securing their fourth-place position in the Roshn Saudi League and narrowing the gap with Jeddah rivals Al-Ahli by just two points.

Despite conceding a penalty converted by Abdelhamid Sabiri in the 25th minute, momentarily quieting the home crowd at Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, the reigning champions rallied to clinch their sixth victory in seven league matches.

Early signs weren't promising, especially when Benzema, recently recovered from an injury sidelining him for five games, had his 20th-minute penalty saved by Vladimir Stojkovic diving to his right. This marked the French striker's fourth missed penalty of the season across all competitions.

The hosts' situation worsened five minutes later as Ahmed Hegazi fouled Henry Onyekuru in the box, allowing Sabiri to convert another penalty and put the visitors in the lead.

However, five minutes later, the Tigers equalized when Fawaz Al-Yami's precise cross from the right found Abderrazak Hamdallah, who made no mistake in scoring from close range.

Benzema rebounded from his penalty miss, providing an assist just before halftime for Ahmed Al-Ghamdi to give Marcelo Gallardo's side the lead.

Both teams aggressively pursued the decisive goal in the second half. It was Al-Ittihad who eventually scored in the 94th minute through Marwan Al-Sahafi, securing a potentially pivotal victory and closing in on local rivals Al-Ahli, who drew 2-2 with Ettifaq in Damman on Friday.

Firas Al-Buraikan put Al-Ahli ahead in the eighth minute, with Riyad Mahrez's assist setting up the goal. However, Ettifaq's Seko Fofana equalized in injury time of the first half, followed by a goal from Moussa Dembele shortly after halftime, attributed to the Frenchman despite a deflection.

The home fans were poised to celebrate victory when, in the final two minutes, Mahrez's clever pass set up Abdullah Al-Ammar for the equalizer, denying Ettifaq a memorable win.

As a result, Al-Ahli retains third place, while Ettifaq remains in sixth. Meanwhile, Al-Taawoun's 4-0 win over Al-Hazm extends their lead in fifth place, and Al-Khaleej's 1-0 victory over Damac continues their impressive run despite sitting in 10th place.

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