Double delight for match-winner Al Shalhoub
Al Ain: Mohammad Al Shalhoub had two reasons to celebrate on Tuesday after the Al Hilal captain scored the only goal of the game against Al Ain in Group C of the 2019 AFC Champions League just hours after the birth of his son.
The 1-0 scoreline at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium marked Al Hilal’s first ever victory in Al Ain and also brought an end to a winless run in the competition that had stretched back to the 4-0 victory over Persepolis in the first leg of the 2017 semi-final.
The visitors were the better side throughout and, after Brazilian Carlos Eduardo struck the bar shortly after half-time, Al Hilal’s pressure finally paid off when veteran Al Shalhoub expertly tucked home Mohammed Al Burayk’s cross in the 65th minute.
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“I'm very happy with the birth of [my son] Bandar and to win the first game of the group stage against a big team like Al Ain,” said 38-year-old Al Shalhoub, who has spent his entire career with the Riyadh club.
“We have won here for the first time in our history. We try to win every game and today we got three very important points against a really big team, but it wasn't easy.
“Fortunately, we were able to deliver and we will now move ahead one step at a time. I want to congratulate everyone on this win and commiserations to our counterparts at Al Ain."
Inaugural winners Al Ain and two-time runners-up Al Hilal have history in the AFC Champions League and, indeed, the pair met in their maiden match in the competition back in March 2003 in a game that the Emirati side posted a 1-0 home win before going on to lift the title.
More recently, Al Hilal eliminated Al Ain in the quarter-finals of the 2017 edition, before the Emirati club took four points from two meetings against their Saudi opponents in the 2018 group stage.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the sides had met six times in the United Arab Emirates, with Al Ain winning five and only one ending in a draw as Al Hilal’s miserable run continued.
But just four days shy of the 16-year anniversary of their first AFC Champions League meeting, Al Hilal finally recorded victory in Al Ain as Al Shalhoub’s goal proved the difference and the Saudi side took home what could be an invaluable three points from a tough group that also includes Esteghlal and Al Duhail.
“Good performance of the team in Al Ain, and the spell is broken,” said AFC Champions League debutant Bafetimbi Gomis on social media.
“Congratulations for the man of the match [Mohammad Al Shalhoub] for the newborn. Wishing him a long life of happiness.”
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