Al-Bulaihi's Heroics Save Al-Hilal in Asian Champions League
In Riyadh on Monday, Ali Al-Bulaihi's dramatic equalizer, coming 10 minutes into stoppage time, spared Al-Hilal's embarrassment as they faced Uzbekistan's Navbahor in the Asian Champions League. This crucial moment occurred during a match that ended in a 1-1 draw. Neymar, who had recently made a high-profile move to the Saudi Pro League side, started for the first time but had a frustrating outing.
The match had seen Toma Tabatadze score for Navbahor in the 52nd minute, seemingly putting them on course for an unexpected victory. However, Al-Bulaihi, the Saudi Arabia international defender, rose to the occasion, meeting a cross from Brazilian winger Michael with a powerful header, leveling the score.
Neymar's inclusion had generated significant anticipation, but he struggled to make a significant impact. It appeared that Navbahor might emerge victorious until Al-Bulaihi's late header ended their spirited resistance during more than 14 minutes of injury time.
In the Asian Champions League, only the group winners among the 40 participating teams are guaranteed advancement to the last 16. Currently, Al-Hilal trails debutants Nassaji Mazandaran in their group standings.
In another group, Al-Ittihad, the Saudi Pro League champions, enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 victory over AGMK from Uzbekistan in Group C. Notably, their coach, Nuno Espirito Santo, chose not to include former Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema in the squad. Haroune Camara opened the scoring in the 11th minute, followed by Romarinho doubling the lead four minutes later with a precise close-range finish. Romarinho then added a third from the penalty spot just before halftime, sealing a convincing win for Al-Ittihad.
In Group B, Nasaf from Uzbekistan secured a late 1-0 win over Jordan's Al-Faisaly, claiming the top spot in the group. Meanwhile, Qatar's Al Sadd and Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates played to a goalless draw in the same group.