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Round of 16 - 1st Leg: Al Ahli Saudi FC (KSA) 2-4 Al Hilal SFC (KSA)

Jeddah: Birthday boy Bafétimbi Gomis was the hero of the night with a hat-trick as Al Hilal SFC came from behind twice to defeat Al Ahli Saudi FC 4-2 in their 2019 AFC Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie on Tuesday.

It was a birthday to remember for Frenchman Gomis, who turned 34 on Tuesday, as Al Hilal took a commanding lead in the showdown against their Saudi Arabian rivals.

The winners will face either another Saudi Arabia side Al Ittihad or Zobahan FC of Islamic Republic of Iran in the quarter-finals.

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In the first-ever continental clash between the two domestic rivals it was Al Ahli who came racing out of the blocks, wasting no time in taking the lead through their talisman Omar Al Somah six minutes in.

The Syrian forward moved into the box and swept home Abdulfattah Asiri’s low cross after the winger did well to outpace his marker down the left.

Parity was restored nine minutes later through Gomis, who opened his goals on the night with composure. Salem Al Dawsari sent a diagonal ball into Al Ahli’s penalty box and Peruvian winger Andre Carillo’s cushioned header provided the perfect set up for Gomis to head home the equaliser.

Asiri, however, was the dangerman for Al Ahli again, supplying a through pass for Djaniny following a quick break. The Cape Verdean advanced into the box and applied a calm left-footed finish past Abdullah Al Mayoof to send Al Ahli into the dressing room in front.

Just three minutes after the restart, Gomis added his sixth goal of the 2019 AFC Champions League to bring Al Hilal level, volleying from inside the box after goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais spilled Sebastian Giovinco’s cross into the Frenchman’s path.

Gomis completed his hat-trick and Al Hilal’s comeback in the 63rd minute, following a perfectly-weighted through pass from Giovinco. The former Olympique Lyon forward outmuscled his marker to latch onto the pass and slot home his side’s third of the night.

There was still room for one more goal, and it was substitute defender Abdullah Al Hafith who got it for Al Hilal.

The Al Ahli defence failed to clear a Giovinco corner to the frustration of coach Branko Ivankovic and Al Hafith pounced on the loose ball, striking home to seal a 4-2 victory for the away side.

The result complicates Al Ahli’s trip to the Saudi capital next week, while putting Al Hilal in a prime position to meet the aggregate winners between Al Ittihad and Zobahan in the quarter-finals.

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