Al Ahli have every right to be desolate after their 2-1 defeat in Riyadh on Tuesday night. The Red Knights had shown to be Al Hilal's equals for more than 90 minutes and, as the game went into injury time, a draw seemed a fair reward for their efforts. A moment of indiscretion, however, robbed the visitors of a point. Yasser al Qahtani went to the ground after a little nudge from the Ahli captain Mohammed Qassim and referee Mohsen Basma pointed to the spot.
Three minutes into added time, Romanian international Mirel Radoi converted the penalty to seal Hilal's first win of this AFC Champions League, a victory that looked unlikely after Ahmed Khalil had put Ahli ahead in the 12th minute. Yasser al Qahtani equalised in the 32nd minute. "I think that both teams were equal in everything and the fair result of this match would have been a draw," said Ahli coach Ivan Hasek after the injury-time heartbreak.
"In football, if you want to win you need to score from the chances and Al Hilal worked until the last minute of the match and they won the game." Ahli had their chances as well, but were denied twice by the woodwork early in the second-half. In the 49th minute Bare forced his way into the box, but his volley hit the left post. The rebound fell for Khalil and his shot bounced off the right upright.
The action, at both ends, continued unabated with the best chance coming Clederson Cesar's way in the 82nd minute. With just the Hilal goalkeeper Mohammed al Deayea to beat, the Brazilian tried to flick the ball over him, but it was saved. "I am very satisfied with my team's performance and the players played a very good match," added Hasek. "We have three remaining matches and I think that our chances of reaching the second stage are open and we will try to secure all points."
Ahli have just one point after three rounds, while the win takes Hilal's tally to five, two behind Group A leaders Pakhtakor. Saba Battery are on third with two points. "I am very glad with this victory which is the first for us in the competition," said Hilal coach George Leekins. "I think the match was very difficult especially in the second half and Ahli were a strong competitor. "But the most important thing is that we secured the three points."