Moussa Dembele scored the winner on his debut as Al Ettifaq’s first competitive game under manager Steven Gerrard and captain Jordan Henderson produced a 2-1 comeback victory over Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League.
Former Lyon, Celtic and Fulham striker Dembele turned in half-time substitute Vitinho’s deflected cross eight minutes after the break as his new club recovered from falling behind to fellow newcomer Sadio Mane’s fourth-minute opener.
Jordan Henderson, who wore the armband and played alongside Mane when Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League final, captained Gerrard’s side and sent in the corner that led to Robin Quaison’s equaliser six minutes earlier, capitalising on goalkeeper Nawaf Alaqidi spilling the delivery.
Reds legend Gerrard was on course to extend his wait for a win as a manager beyond 11 months at the interval, summer signing Mane clipping in Ali Alhassan’s cutback at close range for his first goal since joining the Saudi Public Investment Fund-owned team from Bayern Munich for £24 million ($30.4m) in August.
Mane almost had a second with a volley soon afterwards, and was denied a late equaliser when an offside flag ruled out his ruthless first-time volley as Al Nassr slipped to an opening defeat in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Exhaustion was a factor in sweltering conditions, with several players suffering cramp and injuries during the later stages, leading to 14 minutes of added time at the end of the second half.
Henderson was replaced in the 88th minute by the more defensive-minded Berat Ozdemir and Al Ettifaq held on to begin their campaign with three points.
Al Ettifaq play their first away game of the season at Ar Rass-based Al Hazem, who were the victims of a Roberto Firmino hat-trick in their 3-1 defeat at Al Ahli on Friday. Luis Castro’s Al Nassr are at home to Al-Taawoun on the same day, facing opponents with a point from a 1-1 draw at Al Fateh on Sunday.