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Neymar and Al Hilal scare each other in the Asian Champions League

Hilal’s Brazilian No.10 striker Neymar reacts during the AFC Champions League Group D soccer match between Al-Hilal and PFC Navbahor Namangan at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, September 18 2023. (Photo by Féché NURELDINE / AFP)

Brazilian star Neymar had to forget his Asian Champions League debut as Al Hilal had to score deep into injury time to salvage a 1-1 home draw against Uzbekistan’s Navbahor in Riyadh on Monday.

Neymar, signed last month from Paris Saint-Germain for a fee of 90 million euros, was making his debut for the record Asian champions after making his debut in his place on Friday in the League victory Saudi professional at home against Al Riyadh.

Last year’s Champions League finalist, Hilal was fortunate not to lose his first Group B match after going behind in the 52nd minute at the King Fahd International Stadium to skilled winger Toma Tabatadze. Navbahor, finalist of the 2022 Uzbekistan Super League, is participating in the Champions League for the first time.

However, Hilal defender Ali Al Bulaihi saved a point for the four-time champions in the 100th minute, coming out unmarked in the Navbahor area to head home Michael’s corner.



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Neymar, who earlier this month became Brazil’s all-time top scorer, had a night to neglect. The attacker was subjected to particularly intense treatment at the hands of Navbahor and was furious just before the hour when he was trampled after being dragged to the ground.

Moments later, Neymar was booked for shoving an opponent and then angrily hitting the ball at the player as he lay on the pitch.

Neymar Al Hilal

Hilal’s Serbian striker No. 09 Aleksandar Mitrovic talks with Hilal’s Brazilian striker No. 10 Neymar during the AFC Champions League Group D football match between Al-Hilal and PFC Navbahor Namangan at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, September 18, 2023. (Photo) by Féché NURELDINE / AFP)

Neymar had the chance to put Hilal back in the game three minutes from time, but his point-blank header was straight at Navbahor goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov. Yusupov then made a spectacular save in injury time to deny Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, although he could do nothing to stop Al Bulaihi’s levelling.

Also in Group D, Iranian debutants Nassaji Mazandaran won 2-0 in Mumbai, India.

Meanwhile, Saudi champions Al Ittihad began their quest for a third Champions League title with a comfortable 3-0 home win over Uzbekistan’s AGMK in Jeddah.

Ittihad, back-to-back winners in 2004 and 2005, qualified for the first Group C match without injured Ballon d’Or holder Karim Benzema, but who scored twice in six minutes early in the first half -time.

Haroune Camara, starting in Benzema’s absence, opened the scoring at the Prince Abdullah Al Faisal Stadium 10 minutes before Romarinho quickly doubled the hosts’ advantage.

The Brazilian bought his second of the evening four minutes before half-time, as Nuno Espirito-Santo’s side moved back to within three points.

In the group’s other match, Air Force Club of Iraq held 2007 runners-up Sepahan of Iran to a 2-2 scoreline against Erbil.

In Group B, two-time Asian champions Al Sadd drew 0-0 at home to UAE side Sharjah – Algeria’s Baghdad Bounedjah missed a second-half penalty for the hosts – while as Jordan’s Al Faisaly slumped to a 1-0 defeat in added time. at Nasaf of Uzbekistan in Amman.

The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since the start of 2020, runs until mid-December, with the ten group winners and the six best second-placed teams qualifying for the round of 16. final. It starts in February. The final takes place, in two stages, in May.

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