The writing was on the wall after just 15 seconds as crafty Brazilian Carlos Eduardo’s slaloming run ended in Hattan Bahebri smashing the hosts in front at King Saud University Stadium.
Rather than surrender and wave the white flag though, the team in white shirts fought valiantly. And it was only through Mohammad Al Shalhoub’s late counter-attack goal that Hilal added gloss to a 2-0 scoreline.
Here we take a closer look at the performance of Mohammed Khalfan.
In an opening that was indicative of how rapidly Al Ain’s season has unravelled, they were behind after just 15 seconds. Eduardo sliced through white shirts at will and even when he was brought down, Bahebri had the speed of thought to keep the move going, turning the last man and rifling beyond Khalid Essa.
Thereafter though it was a spirited performance from the visitors. True, Bafetimbi Gomis shanked a shot off the bar and Eduardo always looked a threat, but it was a dogged response from a side playing in a difficult environment.
They dug in and even made a real fist of things in the second half. Barring a lack of quality they created enough openings to have taken a point.
GOT RIGHT – COOL HEAD
Amid a testing period of fixtures and after being carved open in the opening seconds, Al Ain could easily have capitulated. They needed their experienced players to come to the fore.
And even though their veteran midfield trio got to grips with Hilal’s potent attackers, having allowed goalscorer Eduardo to slice through them so easily, so early, young starlet Khalfan really rose to the occasion.
Tongo Doumbia, Amer Abdulrahman and Ahmed Barman all played their part in a stoic resistance but Khalfan showed maturity beyond his 20 years. He was confident on the ball and made intelligent runs in order to open up space for Abdulrahman and Barman to exploit, and with the ball at his feet he provided a threat to the hosts.
An incisive run into the heart of the Hilal defence could even have earned his side a penalty, while he shanked a late shot into the grateful grasp of Abdullah Al Maiouf.
GOT WRONG – YOUTHFUL EXUBERANCE
Whereas Al Ain will be thankful for his relentless energy and tenacity during tough times, as with any emerging talent, it takes time for them to mature and learn all the facets of the game.
As Hilal’s roaring start stuttered and the visitors put up some resistance, Pericles Chamusca’s charges seemed to deploy spoiling tactics to take the sting out of the game. For all their skills and trickery, widemen Salem Al Dawsari and Bahebri displayed the more tiresome side of the game by flopping to the floor under minimal contact.
In one such instance, goalscorer Bahebri lost out in a tackle to Khalfan. While the youngster stood his ground, he caught the Saudi Arabia international with a stray hand – it was all he needed to tumble theatrically to the floor. A more seasoned player may well have not given him an excuse.
In what’s been a poor campaign for his club, Khalfan has showed a calmness and maturity beyond his youthful years. He was energetic, combative and made intelligent runs throughout the contest and didn’t go hiding or shirking his defensive responsibilities.
He was fearless and flowed forward with attacking intent. It’s been a troublesome period for the Boss and there are testing times ahead. But the lively Khalfan has been a shining light.
Know more about Sport360 Application