Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal booked their place in the 2019 AFC Champions League semi-finals with a 3-1 win over archrivals Al Ittihad in the second leg of the quarter-final at the King Saud University Stadium on Tuesday.
Having cancelled each other in a goalless draw in Jeddah three weeks ago, the onus was on Al Hilal to end their visitors’ seven-match unbeaten run in the 2019 AFC Champions League if they were to advance to the semi-finals.
After a cautious start from both sides, the large and loud home crowd were stunned into silence as Al Ittihad put an end to the stalemate that had lasted the entire 90 minutes of the first leg.
A Carlos Villanueva outswinging corner kick found the head of Abdulmohsen Fallatah at the far post and following a failed clearance, the ball fell to Fallatah’s centre-back partner Ziyad Al Sahafi who scuffed his shot, but he had put enough behind it for the ball to crawl in off the upright.
With half an hour gone, a quick passing exchange for Al Hilal down the left saw the ball reach Yasser Al Shahrani who sent a whipped cross towards the far post where Andre Carrillo beat his marker to the ball but watched his headed attempt being heroically tipped behind by goalkeeper Fawaz Al Qarni.
Just before the end of the first half, Al Dawsari took advantage of a series of attacking mistakes to dribble inwards from the left and supplied the ball to Carrillo on the right.
The Peruvian drilled the ball across the mouth of goal and Al Qarni was unfortunate as his attempt to make a save ended with the ball deflected into the back of his own net to level the scores on the night.
Whatever words coach Razvan Lucescu communicated to his players at the break, they worked magic as Al Hilal came into the second half a different side.
It took them just three minutes to take the lead as widemen Al Dawsari and Carillo combined again.
Al Dawsari started an attacking move with a diagonal ball from deep for Carillo, who waited on the ball then delivered an inviting cross for the onrushing Al Dawsari who guided his header into the bottom corner to put Al Hilal in front for the first time in the tie.
Mission was accomplished for Al Hilal with 12 minutes left as Sebastian Giovinco collected Mohammed Kanno’s through pass, dribbled past the defenders and fired low with his left foot, beating Al Qarni to make it 3-1.
Jose Luis Sierra’s men could have sunk even deeper in the last 10 minutes as Mohammed Al Burayk rifled a free-kick from 35 yards out, but the woodwork came to the rescue and the margin was kept at two goals until the final whistle.
Al Hilal have reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals for the fifth time, matching Al Ittihad as the most of any West Asian side. They face Qatar’s Al Sadd in Doha on October 1 and in Riyadh three weeks later.
Source: The AFC