Al-Hilal made sure of top spot in Group D of the AFC Champions League on Monday with a 2-1 win over Nassaji Mazandaran.
Goals in each half from Michael and Salem Al-Dawsari proved enough to defeat the Iranians and for Al-Hilal to progress to the second round unbeaten and in fine form with 15 wins from the last 15 in all competitions.
Jorge Jesus’ men are looking unstoppable at the moment, even when they rest top-class international players such as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Both of those players scored in last Friday’s 3-0 win over Al-Nassr in the Riyadh derby, and Al-Hilal carried on from where they had left off, scoring this time after just four minutes.
Mohammed Al-Breik collected the ball on the left side of the area and rolled it across the six-yard box. It evaded everyone but Michael who was there at the far post to blast home from close range.
The Blues continued to push forward and Saud Abdulhamid, Al-Breik, and Saleh Al-Shehri — given a rare start by his coach after his recent heroics for the national team — all had attempts on goal.
Home fans may have expected their side to stroll to victory but, while dominating possession, they were made to work for the second goal.
They thought they had it just before the half hour when Abdullah Al-Hamdan broke free of the defense, but his low shot was well saved by Hossein Khatir. That was not the end of the danger either, as the ball bounced off Amir Houshmand and headed toward goal before the goalkeeper clawed it off the line.
The visitors, who had already been eliminated, had not looked too dangerous going forward, but that changed just before the break. Hossein Zamehran took a free-kick from the right and Mahmoud Rahmati stooped to send a perfect low header toward the opposite corner, Yassine Bounou getting down quickly to make a fine diving save.
Al-Hilal grabbed a second goal early in the second half. Al-Hamdan lifted a pass over the defense for Al-Dawsari who, under pressure from defenders, pushed the ball past the goalkeeper.
It all looked too easy, and with 13 minutes remaining, the Iranians pulled one back through Rahmati. Kalidou Koulibaly headed away a cross but it fell to the forward who volleyed high into the net to give Bounou no chance.
That was it as far as goals were concerned, but there looks to be much more to come in the AFC Champions League for Al-Hilal.