Pitso’s toughest challenge: Abha show fight, bounce out of danger zone again

13 May 2024 - 12:46
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Abha Club head coach Pitso Mosimane.
Abha Club head coach Pitso Mosimane.
Image: Abha Club/X

After a torrid period where they bled goals and looked to be in free-fall, Pitso Mosimane’s Abha Club have stabilised again, and two good results have seen them bounce out of the Saudi Pro League (SPL) relegation zone for a second time this year.

With three matches to play it is touch and go for the club in what must be one of the biggest challenges Mosimane, used to competing for trophies and championships, has faced in his career.

After four matches (three defeats and a win) where they conceded 18 goals and scored two, Abha bounced back by following up an excellent 3-1 home win against fifth-placed Al-Ittihad with a 0-0 draw, also at home, against 10th-positioned Damak on Friday night.

The four points saw Abha move to 29 points from 30 games and into 15th place, a point above 16th-placed Al-Akhdoud, who are among the bottom three in the relegation zone of the 18-team league.

Mosimane’s side are putting up a fighting performance despite obvious challenges in their defence.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns and Al Ahly (Egypt) coach and his South African technical staff arrived at Abha on January 11 with the club in 17th place on 14 points.

He had some initial success, accumulating eight points from his first six league games — two wins, two draws and two defeats. The bottom fell out after a confidence-smashing 8-0 home defeat to second-placed Al-Nassr inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick.

Abha bounced back with a 2-1 home win against Al-Fateh but then suffered 5-0 and 4-0 defeats away to Al-Shabab and fellow relegation battlers Akhdoud, before finding their feet again with their last two results.

Abha’s points accumulation has improved under Mosimane. Their 14 points before his arrival came from 19 games, and since the South African took over they have notched up 15 in 12 matches.

Abha’s apparent brittleness on the road will be put to the test in their last three games.

Mosimane’s side face a huge challenge against third-placed Al-Ahli away on Saturday, then host 11th-placed Al-Khaleej on May 23. Abha, though, might feel confident of gaining three points against already relegated, last-placed Al-Hazm away in their last game on May 27.

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