RIYADH — Al Hilal wrapped up their AFC Champions League 2023/24 Group D campaign with a fifth consecutive victory, securing a 2-1 win against Nassaji Mazandaran at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium on Monday.
The triumph boosted Al Hilal’s Group D points to 16, affirming their status as the group winners. Nassaji, representing Iran, can take pride in their debut appearance, amassing six points in the competition.
Already confirmed as Group D winners after defeating Navbahor last week, coach Jorge Jesus made strategic choices, opting to rest Ruben Neves and starting Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from the bench.
The Saudi Pro League leaders wasted no time taking the lead, with Mohammed Al Burayk delivering a crucial cross to Michael in the 4th minute.
Michael slammed the ball home from a tight angle, securing the goal despite Vahid Mohammadzadeh’s clearance coming after the ball had crossed the line.
Nassaji struggled to break out of their own half, and Al Hilal had an opportunity to double their lead in the 28th minute.
Abdullah Al Hamddan’s shot was pushed onto his own defender by Hossein Khatir, rolling towards an empty net.
However, Khatir’s last-minute effort allowed the goalkeeper to push the ball away.
In the 31st minute, Al Hilal was awarded a penalty after referee Mohanad Qasim initially deemed Mohammad Hosseini’s challenge on Sale Al Shehri a foul but overturned his decision following a VAR check.
Although a passenger for much of the first half, Yassine Bounou was called into action in the 45th minute, skillfully palming away Mahmoud Ghaedrahmati’s header after a near-post free-kick from Hossein Zamehran.
The Moroccan international did not return after halftime due to a muscle problem, with Habib Al Watyan replacing him.
Despite the goalkeeper change, Al Hilal maintained control, extending their lead in the 54th minute. Al Hamddan’s flick over Nassaji’s defense was finished off by Salem Al Dawsari.
Mitrovic and Milinkovic-Savic entered the game in the 60th minute, but it was Nassaji who found the net next.
Ghaedrahmati executed an exceptional volley in the 77th minute after Kalidou Koulibaly’s headed clearance fell kindly into his path, although it proved to be a mere consolation.
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