Al Ain: Veteran Mohammad Al Shalhoub was the hero as his 65th minute strike secured Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal a 1-0 win over Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates in a 2019 AFC Champions League Group C tie on Tuesday. The two sides had met twice in last year’s group stage, sharing the points in the first leg in Saudi Arabia, while Al Ain emerged 2-1 winners in the UAE.
Al Hilal started strongly and almost found themselves in front within three minutes through Carlos Eduardo. The Brazilian pounced on a loose ball inside the box, but goalkeeper Khaled Eisa made the save.
Japanese international Tsukasa Shiotani responded swiftly with a free-kick, but his strike was narrowly off target in the fifth minute.
The Saudi side continued to dominate possession and had another close chance at the quarter-hour mark as Eduardo crossed for Bafetimbi Gomis whose header didn’t connect well and missed the target.
Eduardo thought he had finally found the opener, striking after Sebastian Giovinco’s cushioned header on the half-volley from outside the box five minutes after the restart. The Brazilian’s strike cannoned off the upright.
The pressure finally delivered, and it was veteran Al Shalhoub who found the winner 20 minutes into the second half. The club captain converted a cross from Mohamed Al Buraik from the right into the top corner to seal the three points.
Al Ain’s woes were compounded in the final minute as captain Ismail Ahmed was shown the red card.
The 2003 champions will look to get on the board next week when they travel to Tehran for the Esteghlal clash, while Al Hilal welcome Al Duhail to the King Saud University Stadium.