x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Al Hilal grab injury time winner

Al Ahli suffer an injury-time heartbreak against Al Hilal, going down 2-1 in Riyadh, after taking an earlier lead.

Al Ahli suffered an injury-time heartbreak against Al Hilal on Tuesday night, going down 2-1 in Riyadh after having taken an early lead in their Group A match of the AFC Champions League. Ahmed Khalil put the visitors ahead in the 13th minute, but Yasser al Qahtani levelled the scores in the 32nd minute. The stalemate continued till the hosts earned a penalty in added time and the Romanian Mirel Radoi converted from the spot to seal Hilal's first win of this AFC Champions League. Ahli deserved at least a point from the game, if not more, having started the game as the better side of the two. Hilal looked a bit jaded at the start, playing less than 72 hours after defeating Ettiifaq in a Saudi Professional League game. The opening goal was a consequence of their lethargy as Mohammed al Nakhil, under pressure from Khalil, slipped as he turned around to make a pass. Ahli's teenaged star, the 2008 Asian Best Youth Player, made full use of this largesse, sprinting down with the ball, stopping briefly for Hilal keeper Mohammed al Deayea to make his move and then placing the ball low to his left. The early reversal brought Hilal out of their slumber and Tareq Ibrahim tested Ahli keeper Obaid al Tawila twice in successive minutes, while al Qahtani came close to equalising with a header in the 23rd minute. The Saudi marksman eventually succeeded in restoring parity in the 32nd minute, heading home Seol Ki-Hyeon's cross after the South Korean, on loan from Fulham, had raced down the left through a maze of defenders. Ahli should have taken the lead again in the 49th minute, but were denied twice by the woodwork. Bare, forcing his way into the box, volleyed into the left post; the rebound fell for Khalil, but his shot bounced off the right upright. At the other end, al Tawila stood firm under the Ahli bar, diving to punch away Mirel Radoi's stinger in the 63rd minute and stopping al Qahtani's shot from inside the box. The action, at both ends, continued unabated with the best chance coming Clederson Cesar's way in the 82nd minute, when he found himself with just the Hilal keeper to beat. The Brazilian tried to flick the ball over al Deayea, but the custodian had the shot covered. The stalemate continued into added time and the game seemed headed for a draw till the fortuitous hosts earned a penalty when al Qahtani was brought down by Mohammed Qassim. Radoi converted from the spot to seal three points for Hilal and take their tally to five points. Pakhtakor lead the group with seven points, while Ahli lie at the bottom on one. arizvi@thenational.ae