Navi Mumbai: Second half goals from Michael and Aleksandar Mitrovic secured Al Hilal SFC a 2-0 win over 10-man Mumbai City on Monday to move the Saudi Pro League side to the verge of qualifying for the knockout rounds of the AFC Champions League 2023-24.
Michael’s 62nd minute header came after Mehtab Singh was sent off for a second bookable offence eight minutes earlier as the hosts’ stubborn resistance was finally broken by the four-time continental champions. Mitrovic headed in the second five minutes from time.
Al Hilal move on to 10 points from their first four games in Group D while Mumbai are bottom without a point.
Despite their struggles so far in the competition, the hosts opened with purpose as Greg Stewart’s first minute shot was deflected wide by Kalidou Koulibaly for a corner after the Scotsman was played into the Al Hilal penalty area by Lallianzuala Chhangte.
Three minutes later Mumbai City captain Rahul Bheke headed the ball forward for Jorge Pereyra Diaz to capitalise on Koulibaly’s hesitation but the former Napoli defender recovered with a fine defensive tackle.
Al Hilal pulled themselves into the game with Michael, Salem Al Dawsari and Hassan Tambakti all having sights of goal before Malcom squandered a golden chance in the 12th minute, heading wide from close range after Mohammed Kanno flicked the ball across goal.
Goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa was then on hand to keep the Saudis out in 24th minute, throwing himself to his right to palm Ruben Neves’ perfectly struck volley from the edge of the area around the post.
Lachenpa then tipped Al Dawsari’s right foot strike over the bar following the AFC Player of the Year’s quick-paced return pass in the penalty area from Mitrovic, and the Saudi international was close again early in the second half.
A tussle with Mitrovic in the first 45 minutes had seen Singh pick up his first booking and, nine minutes into the second half, a rash lunge on Neves earned the Mumbai midfielder his second yellow card and an early exit that ultimately cost his team.
By the 62nd minute Al Hilal had gone in front, Michael steering his far post header home following Mohammed Al Burayk’s cross from the left and the visitors could have doubled their advantage in the 71st minute when Mitrovic’s shot beat Lachenpa, only to hit the post.
Mitrovic finally nodded in Al Hilal’s second in the 85th minute, directing Al Dawsari’s lofted ball over the line from close range to net his fifth of the competition so far.