In a Saudi clash, Al Hilal, with Rúben Neves starting, beat Al Ittihad, coached by Marcelo Gallardo, 2-0, with goals from Mitrovic and Al Dawsari in the 40th and 42nd minutes respectively, in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League.

In a lacklustre second half, Kanté was shown a straight red, paving the way for Jorge Jesus’ team to claim their 26th consecutive victory, just one away from equalling the Guinness record.

Three days after the hosts won the league (3-1), Rúben Neves orchestrated the midfield in a game that started evenly, with chances for both sides.

First, Al Dawsari showed some skilful dribbling, evading two defenders but wasting a clear opportunity in front of the goalkeeper; shortly afterwards, Hegazy hit the post from a corner kick.

As the half wore on, Al Hilal dominated the game, fuelled by moments of individual brilliance, such as Malcom’s combination with Mitrovic, which culminated in a shot that missed the post. In the 38th minute, following a set piece, Al Olayan committed a clear foul on the Serbian striker and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. Mitrovic calmly stepped up, deceived the goalkeeper and opened the scoring.

It was a double blow for Jorge Jesus team, as two minutes later Rúben Neves played a Pirlo-like pass, releasing the Brazilian winger who unselfishly provided Al Dawsari with a goal, extending the lead just before half-time.

The second half took on a very monotonous tone, with few chances on goal. In fact, they only appeared after Kanté was sent off, penalised for a collision with Koulibaly and with recourse to the VAR monitor. Milinkovic-Savic came within centimetres of scoring with a powerful shot that sailed just over the crossbar.

Towards the end of the game, a rare Al Ittihad counter-attack led by Al Sahafi ended at the feet of Hamdallah, who shot past Al Owais’ tight defence.

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