Al Hilal vs Al Ain: UAE side head to Riyadh for crunch ACL semi-final second leg

Hernan Crespo's side take 4-2 lead into Tuesday's clash

Al Ain player Khalid Al Hashemi leaves for Riyadh along with his teammates for the second leg of their AFC Champions League semi-final against Al Hilal. Photo: Al Ain / X.
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Al Ain's AFC Champions League heroes set off for Saudi Arabia on Monday as the UAE club look to maintain their upper hand in the second leg of their semi-final against Saudi giants Al Hilal.

Al Ain put up one of their best performances in recent times as they defeated their Saudi opponents 4-2 in the first leg at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium last Wednesday.

Soufiane Rahimi was the star for the home team as he netted a first-half hat-trick in the match that had been postponed 24 hours because of the adverse weather that hit the UAE the previous day, and continues to leave a major imprint on the region.

The result had huge ramifications. The loss ended Hilal’s incredible 34-match winning streak, which is a world record. Al Ain handed four-time Asian champions Hilal their first defeat since last September, and their first in this year’s Champions League.

However, the job is far from done. Manager Hernan Crespo expects Hilal to hit back hard in the second leg, which will be held at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Speaking after the famous win, Crespo said: "We are happy with the result in this match, which is only the first half of the Champions League semi-final, and we are required to focus on the return match.

“We realise that our task will not be easy. Nothing is decided as we still have a match in Riyadh, and everyone should be ready for the next match. The most important thing in life and in football is to be competitive."

Al Ain's hat-trick hero Rahimi had said he was looking forward to Tuesday's clash.

"We played against three Saudi teams – Al Fayha, Al Nassr and Al Hilal – and I am grateful to have scored against all of them. I hope I can score in the next match as well," he said last week.

"I am proud of our performance against a big team like Al Hilal. Everyone wants to play perfectly in big matches. Such matches require big players, and I like to always show my best."

With so much at stake, interest among fans in the UAE is understandably high.

Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has directed that three private planes be provided for Al Ain club fans so that they can support their team in Riyadh, according to WAM.

Updated: April 23, 2024, 4:35 AM