RIYADH: A hat-trick from Aleksandar Mitrovic helped Al-Hilal to a 6-0 thrashing of Mumbai City on Monday to keep the Saudi side on course for the knockout stage of the AFC Champions League, and make up a little for the absence of Neymar, who will be out for several months after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Uruguay last week.
Playing at home in Riyadh, it was an impressive display of firepower from Al-Hilal. Indian champions Mumbai had said ahead of the game that it was the biggest in their club’s history, and it was always going to be a tough ask for them to go up against the most successful team in Asian football, with four Champions League titles to their name. And so it proved.
Mitrovic’s opener, after five minutes, set Al-Hilal on their way and after that the Blues never really looked like letting the three points slip. Mohammed Al-Burayk passed the ball from the left to leave the Serbian striker with a simple tap-in from close range.
The home team kept pushing forward and simply had too much in an attacking sense for the visitors to handle. Salem Al-Dawsari had the ball in the net midway through the first half but the goal was ruled out. This was only a temporary respite for the visitors, though the home fans had to wait until midway through the second half for the lead to be extended.
When the goal came it was courtesy of the same pair who had combined to open the scoring. Left-back Al-Burayk once again sent over the perfect cross for Mitrovic, who this time headed home.
From that point it was only going to be a question of how many Al-Hilal could score — and there were plenty to come. First up was Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who, with 15 minutes remaining, rose to meet a Saud Abdulhamid cross from the right and send a powerful header into the net.
Five minutes later Abdulhamid, who continued his impressive form so far this season, turned provider once more. This was the best goal of the night, as he pulled it back for Mitrovic to fire a spectacular overhead kick into the net and secure his hat-trick.
Al-Burayk got in on the act after 82 minutes, firing home a low shot from just inside the area, before Abdulelah Al-Malki completed the rout in injury time with a fierce effort from outside the area. It was a crowd-pleasing goal from the midfielder, who has struggled for playing time since picking up a serious injury in 2022.
It all meant that Mumbai were surely happy to hear the final whistle. The emphatic victory means that after three games in Group D, Al-Hilal are level with Navbahor of Uzbekistan on seven points but top the group on goal difference. On Monday’s form, a place in the next stage looks a nailed-on certainty.