Saudi Arabia ended their six-game losing streak in dramatic fashion on Friday as they secured a 2-2 draw with Nigeria in the 100th minute of their friendly in Portugal.
Mohamed Kanno’s late, late free-kick provided an exciting end to an entertaining game. The Green Falcons had held their own throughout, and kept going to the final seconds before bagging their reward.
Salman Al-Faraj’s free-kick broke the deadlock on the hour but Victor Boniface equalized with 17 minutes remaining. Kelechi Iheanacho then scored what looked to have been a fine winner, with nine minutes remaining, before Kanno’s timely intervention.
Coach Roberto Mancini, who was appointed in August, will be relieved that he did not have to face the media to explain a seventh successive defeat for Saudi, and a third in three since he took over.
Nigeria were on top in the first half and Mohammed Al-Owais began a busy evening early on, getting down well to push a shot from Boniface to safety.
The Bayer Leverkusen forward was dangerous once more just before the 20-minute mark but Al-Owais dealt with the low shot comfortably once again, and was also relieved when Victor Osimhen shot over from close range.
Saudi Arabia were still very much in the game and a few minutes before the break they fashioned the best chance of the half. Fahad Al-Muwallad, brought back into the starting lineup by the Italian boss, burst into the area and, with just the goalkeeper to beat, stretched for the shot and Francis Uzoho saved.
The African team should have taken the lead on the stroke of halftime but Ademola Lookman shot just wide while in a one-on-one situation.
Saudi Arabia looked a little more dangerous after the break and scored on the hour, although it came out of nowhere. Al-Faraj took a free-kick and the looping ball deceived Uzoho who palmed the ball into his own net. Nigeria were stunned.
They were almost two down shortly after. Substitute Saleh Al-Shehri pulled the ball back for Abdullah Al-Hamdan and the forward’s low shot looked destined for the back of the net before it was smartly blocked.
Saudi Arabia felt they should have had a penalty with 20 minutes remaining as Semi Ajayi seemed to handle a Salem Al-Dawsari pass but, despite a check from VAR, the kick was not awarded.
It was 1-1 three minutes later. Boniface had missed a couple of chances but made no mistake after getting to the near post to guide a low left-sided cross from Moses Simon into the net.
Nigeria took the lead with nine minutes left. Al-Hamdan’s misdirected ball fell to Iheanacho and the forward, who has been in fine scoring form for Leicester City, curled home a delightful shot from the edge of the area.
Another legitimate claim for a Saudi penalty was ignored before Kanno’s late free-kick salvaged the draw. The losing streak had finally ended and Mancini will be encouraged.
Attention now turns to Mali on Tuesday, a final warm-up for November’s 2026 World Cup qualifiers.