Abu Dhabi: Omar Khribin’s hat-trick helped ensure Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia will take a commanding four-goal lead into the second leg of the 2017 AFC Champions League semi-final in three weeks’ time after posting a 4-0 first leg victory over Islamic Republic of Iran's Persepolis at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
After a lively opening, Carlos Eduardo should have put Al Hilal in front in the eighth minute but was denied by a fine save from goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, before Nicolas Milesi’s effort zipped just wide 10 minutes later as the Saudi side took control of the game.
But Al Hilal did open the scoring on 31 minutes when Syrian forward Khribin popped up at the back post to head home Mohammed Al Burayk’s deep cross from the right.
Yasser Al Shahrani then doubled the advantage five minutes before the interval by drilling into the bottom right corner from 18 yards after good work from Salem Al Dawsari.
Persepolis were thrown a lifeline early in the second half, though, when Abdullah Otayf was dismissed for picking up two yellow cards in quick succession.
However in the 54th minute, Khribin nipped in behind the Iranian backline to produce a neat finish for his second – and sixth of the tournament – after a lovely low ball from Al Dawsari on the right.
Ahmad Nourollahi could have pulled one back with 15 minutes to play but saw his effort saved by Abdullah Al Mayoof in the Al Hilal goal, before Al Dawsari came close to adding another with 10 minutes to play but miscued from inside the box.
But the misery was not over for Persepolis as Khribin broke through their defence in the final minute to fire a fabulous low drive from 20 yards beyond Beiranvand to give the Iranian side a mountain to climb in Oman next month.