Neymar and Al-Hilal suffer scare in Asian Champions League, Al-Ittihad cruise to win
RIYADH: Brazil star Neymar endured an Asian Champions League debut to forget as Al-Hilal had to score deep into injury-time to salvage a 1-1 at home to Uzbekistan’s Navbahor in Riyadh on Monday.
Neymar, signed last month from Paris Saint-Germain for a reported €90 million, was making his first start for the record Asian champions having debuted on Friday as a substitute in the Saudi Pro League victory at home to Al Riyadh.
Runners-up in last year’s Champions League, Al-Hilal were fortunate not to lose their Group B opener having gone behind on 52 minutes at King Fahd International Stadium to Toma Tabatadze’s expert finish. Navbahor, the 2022 Uzbekistan Super League runners-up, were competing in the Champions League for the first time.
However, Al-Hilal defender Ali Al-Bulaihi rescued a point for the four-time champions in the 100th minute, rising unmarked in the Navbahor area to head home Michael’s corner.
Neymar, who earlier this month became Brazil’s all-time lead goalscorer, had largely a night to forget.
The forward was subjected to some particularly robust treatment from Navbahor, and was incensed just before the hour when he was trod on after being dragged to the ground.
Moments later, Neymar was booked for pushing over an opponent and then angrily kicking the ball at the player as he lay on the pitch.
Neymar did have a chance get Hilal back into the game three minutes from time, but his close-range header was straight at Navbahor goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov. Yusupov then made a spectacular save in injury-time to deny Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, although he could do nothing to prevent Al-Bulaihi’s leveller.
Also in Group D, Iranian debutants Nassaji Mazandaran won 2-0 away to India’s Mumbai City.