AFC CL 2019 Group C: Al Hilal SFC (KSA) 2-0 Al Ain FC (UAE)
Riyadh: Hattan Bahebri netted the second-fastest goal in AFC Champions League history and Mohammed Al Shalhoub added a second late on as Al Hilal brushed aside Al Ain 2-0 at King Saud University Stadium on Matchday Five of Group C on Monday.
Both sides had learnt their fate after a 1-1 draw in the other Monday fixture meant Al Hilal and Al Duhail confirmed their places in the Round of 16 while Al Ain would join Esteghlal in being eliminated at the group stage regardless of remaining results.
Al Hilal got off to a flying start, taking the game to Al Ain’s half straight from kick-off and finding the back of the net within 15 seconds.
Carlos Eduardo picked the ball up at the halfway line and skillfully dribbled past five Al Ain players, arriving into the penalty box where he was brought down. The ball, however, fell to Bahebri who took it on his left foot and fired into Khaled Eisa’s net to open the scoring.
Bafetimbi Gomis had a golden chance to double Al Hilal’s lead at the half-hour mark. Salem Al Dawsari received the ball down the right and squared for the Frenchman who had only the goalkeeper to beat. Gomis did so with a first-touch finish but watched as his ball cannoned off the crossbar.
Al Hilal continued to dominate after the break and came close to doubling their advantage through Eduardo who made another mazy run deep into Al Ain half before exchanging passes with Bahebri. The Brazilian curled from inside the box, but Eisa made a flying save to limit the damage.
Coach Pericles Chamusca, making his debut in the dugout, brought on veteran Al Shalhoub to replace goalscorer Bahebri with 14 minutes left on the clock. The 38-year-old rewarded his new boss with a goal in the final minute of the second half.
Al Dawsari broke free down the left following quick build-up and squared for Al Shalhoub who curled home Al Hilal’s second of the night at the death to put the game to bed.
The win means Al Hilal become the first side in the 2019 AFC Champions League to hit 12 points. They are now also assured of finishing top of Group C regardless of the results of Matchday Six.
The Riyadh club will be closely watching the two Group D fixtures on the final matchday to find out whether they face Pakhtakor, Al Sadd or Al Ahli in the Round of 16.