Opta analysis: Al Hilal
Riyadh: Ramon Diaz made wholesale changes to his Al Hilal team, but it had little negative impact as the two-time Asian champions notched up 1-0 win over Al Wahda to move to the top of the standings in Group D of the 2017 AFC Champions League.
In a tale of two penalty takers, Carlos Eduardo’s success from the spot was the difference between the teams while Al Wahda’s Sebastian Tagliabue capped a disappointing performance in Riyadh by seeing his 43rd minute attempt saved.
The loss was Al Wahda third defeat in four games and the club’s hopes of a place in the knockout phase of this year’s competition now hang by a thread, with wins in both of their remaining games the only hope Javier Aguirre’s side have of remaining involved.
Eduardo was one of just four players who featured in Al Hilal’s previous meeting with Al Wahda – a 2-2 draw on Matchday Three – as the Riyadh giants highlighted their strength in depth as they moved into pole position in the group ahead of Al Rayyan and Persepolis.
Carlos Eduardo shines in South American showdown
Eduardo was on target to claim his third goal in four games and he proved to be the difference in a game that Al Hilal dominated without reaping the rewards on the scoreboard their performance deserved.
The 27-year-old’s showing, both in open play and from the penalty spot, was in stark contrast to that of Tagliabue, who has so often been the talisman for his teams in the AFC Champions League.
The Argentinian endured a miserable evening, with moves continually breaking down at his feet, and the point lost due to the penalty miss may well have brought Al Wahda’s realistic hopes of a place in the top two to an end.
Width key to Al Hilal attack
Eduardo was not the only standout performer, however, for the hosts, who started with veteran forward Yasser Al Qahtani in attack only to be forced into a change just 18 minutes of the game when he was taken off with a hamstring injury.
Omar Kharbin took over, but the change made little difference as the majority of Al Hilal’s attacking intent came from Eduardo on the right and the partnership down the left involving Salem Al Dawsari and Abdullah Al Zori.
Al Dawsari was one of seven players called up for the game who had not featured in last month’s previous meeting between the teams and his fresh approach gave Al Hilal added zest and drive as the Saudis proved they possess a squad deep enough to make an impact once again on the continental club scene.
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