Asia AFC Champions League

Rahimi’s Hat-Trick Snaps Al Hilal’s Record Winning Run in ACL SF Classic

Moroccan striker Soufiane Rahimi was the toast of the United Arab Emirates as his hat-trick helped Al Ain to an emphatic 4-2 win over Saudi Arabian giants Al Hilal in Wednesday’s AFC Champions League semifinal first leg at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, with the victory snapping Al Hilal’s record-breaking 34-match winning run.

The last time Hernan Crespo faced Al Hilal, his Al Duhail side were crushed 7-0 by the Saudi juggernauts in last season’s ACL semifinal. Now in charge of Al Ain, the Inter Milan legend was seeking to make things right by getting one over Al Hilal, and his men duly delivered.

From the outset, Al Ain seized control, breaking the deadlock within six minutes. Yahia Nader’s delivery found Rahimi unmarked in the box, where the Moroccan calmly slotted home, notching his ninth goal of the tournament.

The tempo remained frenetic, and 16 minutes later, Rahimi was fouled by goalkeeper Mohammed Al Owais inside the box, leading to a penalty after VAR confirmation. Rahimi confidently dispatched the spot-kick to double Al Ain’s advantage.

Al Hilal’s defensive vulnerability was exploited once more, with Erik brought down by Ali Al Bulayhi, resulting in another penalty after VAR intervention. Rahimi completed his hat-trick from the spot within 38 minutes.

The second half commenced with equal intensity, as Al Hilal frantically mounted a comeback. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s assist allowed Malcom to tap in, reducing the deficit.

However, VAR intervened again, awarding Al Ain a third penalty after Kalidou Koulibaly’s foul on Rahimi. Kaku converted from the spot, reinstating the hosts’ three-goal cushion.

The fourth goal deflated Al Hilal’s momentum, hampering their attempts to mount a comeback despite Salem Al Dawsari’s goal in the 78th minute.

In the final minutes, Al Hilal pressed for another goal, with Al Dawsari’s long-range effort denied by the woodwork.

Despite this crushing defeat, Al Hilal’s two goals would give the Riyadh-based titans some hope coming into next week’s second leg.