On Tuesday, Neymar scored his first goal following his highly publicized transfer to Saudi Arabia, helping Al-Hilal secure an impressive 3-0 victory over Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in the group stage of the Asian Champions League.
The Brazilian superstar, who made headlines with his move from Paris St Germain to the Saudi Pro League side for a whopping 90 million euros ($94.23 million) during the summer, found the back of the net in a turbulent match that witnessed both teams reduced to 10 players, just seven minutes before halftime.
The opening goal for the Saudi team came from Aleksandar Mitrovic, who headed the ball into the net in the 18th minute. Referee Ma Ning then issued red cards to Al-Hilal’s Salman Al Faraj and Nassaji’s Amir Houshmand after reviewing an on-field altercation using the pitchside monitor.
Neymar extended Al-Hilal’s lead with a precisely timed left-footed strike in the 58th minute, and substitute Saleh Al Shehri sealed the victory comfortably in injury time.
This win marked Al-Hilal’s first victory in the group phase of the continental competition this season, following their previous draw against Navbahor last month. In the same group, Uzbek side Navbahor secured a 3-0 victory over Mumbai City on Tuesday, joining Al-Hilal at the top of Group D with four points, courtesy of goals from Jamshid Iskanderov, Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, and Doniyor Abdumannopov.
In Group A, Al Ain from the United Arab Emirates claimed the top spot with a 4-2 victory over Turkmenistan’s Ahal, while Uzbek team Pakhtakor suffered a 2-0 loss to Al Fayha from Saudi Arabia.
Al Ain, who had previously defeated Pakhtakor in the opening round, displayed an impressive attacking performance in front of their home fans. Brazilian midfielder Erik opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a clinical finish. Soufiane Rahimi and Kodjo Laba added to the lead, giving Al Ain a three-goal advantage at halftime. Despite Elman Tagayew pulling one back in the 58th minute, Kouame Kouadio netted a fourth goal for the hosts, rendering Dayanch Meredow’s late strike as mere consolation for the opposition.
With this outcome, Al Ain now holds a three-point lead over Ahal and Al Fayha in Group A, where Al Fayha secured their win thanks to goals from Abdelhamid Sabiri in each half against Pakhtakor.
It’s worth noting that the winners in each of the 10 four-team groups are guaranteed a spot in the last 16, while the remaining positions will be filled by the three best-performing runner-up teams from both the eastern and western regions of the continent.