Neymar makes AFC Champions League debut as Al Hilal salvage late draw at Navbahor
Ali Al Bulaihi's equaliser 10 minutes into stoppage time spared Al Hilal's blushes as Neymar made his first start for the Saudi Pro League side in a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan's Navbahor in the Asian Champions League in Riyadh on Monday.
Saudi Arabia international defender Al Bulaihi rose to meet Brazilian winger Michael's centre to cancel out a Toma Tabatadze strike in the 52nd minute of the Group D meeting that had looked set to earn Samvel Babayan's side an unlikely win.
Neymar, among the headline arrivals in Saudi Arabia over the summer, was included in the starting line-up for the first time since his €90 million move from Paris Saint-Germain but was frustrated throughout the encounter.
The Brazilian looked like he would end up on the losing side until Al Bulaihi's header, which came during more than 14 minutes of injury time, finally put an end to Navbahor's determined resistance against their expensively-assembled opponents.
Only the winners of the 10 groups in the 40-team competition are guaranteed to advance to last 16 and Al Hilal sit behind debutants Nassaji Mazandaran in the early standings.
The Iranians top the group after securing a 2-0 win over India's Mumbai City in Pune through a goal in each half from Ehsan Hosseini and Mohammad Reza Azadi.
Romarinho made the difference as Al Ittihad shrugged off the absence of star man Karim Benzema to cruise to a 3-0 win over Uzbekistan’s AGMK in Jeddah.
Benzema played the full 90 and scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win over Al Okhdood in the Saudi Pro League last Thursday but missed out on the squad entirely on Monday night.
Romarinho filled the void, however, with two well-taken goals after Haroune Camara had opened the scoring with just 11 minutes on the clock.