Riyadh: Saudi giants Al Hilal proved to be clinical and astute as they clinched a 3-0 win over Al Ain in the second leg of their 2017 AFC Champions League quarter-final. Brazilian star Carlos Eduardo's hat-trick swept away the challenge of the Emirati side who held them to a goalless draw in the first leg.
Set piece routines changed the game
Going into Monday's game, Al Ain knew that an away goal could swing the tie in their favour but they were unable to sieze the advantage in the first half. Instead, it was Al Hilal who dealt them a double blow just before halftime courtesy of two set piece routines. Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Milesi was instrumental on both occasions. First, he delivered a pinpoint free kick for Carlos Eduardo to head in past Khaled Eisa.
A few minutes later, Al Hilal perfected what seemed to be a move right off the training pitch. After a foul on Omar Khribin, Salem Al Dawsari laid the ball across for Milesi, who was displayed his accuracy once again by picking out Eduardo. The Brazilian beat the offside trap, controlled the ball and slammed it home to make it 2-0 to the Saudi side.
The Milesi – Carlos Eduardo combination delivered at a crucial juncture put the game beyond the reach of Al Ain, who could not recover from the setback.
Clinical Carlos Eduardo shows the way
It was the difference between the two sides' attacks that paved the way for Al Hilal's win. Zoran Mamic's Al Ain could only muster a single shot on target throughout the whole game, which came via Markus Berg in the first half.
Al Hilal, on the other hand, created chances and made them count, with Carlos Eduardo leading the way. The 27-year old had an accuracy rate of 100% with his 8 shots, three of which ended in goals. Carlos Eduardo was a menace for the Al Ain defence throughout the game with his intelligent movement, which was especially evident in the second and third goals when he escaped the offside trap with ease.
Al Khaibari takes Omar Abdulrahman out of the game
The failure of Al Ain's attack to shine on the night could be put down to their captain Omar Abdulrahman's inability to influence the game as usual. Abdulrahman was man-marked and closely followed by Al Hilal midfielder Abdulmalek Al Khaibari, who succeeded in limiting the Emirati star to just one shot, which went wide of the target.
Looking at the average positions of the players (above), you can notice how Al Khaibari stuck to Abdulrahman. He stepped up in the absence of Salman Al Faraj and Abdullah Otayf to do his job to perfection, finishing the game with 10 recoveries, 6 interceptions and 3 tackles.
Omar Abdulrahman struggled to make an impression and he was unable to create a single chance in the game. His passing accuracy in the opponents' half dipped to 51.4% while all seven of his crosses were unsuccessful.
Photo: Lagardère Sports