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Neymar scores first Al Hilal goal in Asian CL win

Brazil star Neymar opened his account for Al Hilal finally on Tuesday, scoring in his side’s 3-0 victory in the Asian Champions League against Iran’s Nassaji Mazandaran in Tehran.

The former Paris Saint-Germain forward, signed in August for a reported 90 million euros ($94 million), grabbed the second in the record Asian champions’ win at the Azadi Stadium, AFP reports.

The goal, a sweeping left-footed finish on 58 minutes, represented Neymar’s first for Hilal in five matches. Former Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic had opened the scoring on 18 minutes with a header, with substitute Saleh Al Shehri securing the result in injury-time to lift the four-time winners, runners-up last year, top of Group D.

Navbahor, 2022 Uzbekistan Super League runners-up and Champions League debutants, had earlier on Tuesday secured a 3-0 win at home to India’s Mumbai City in Namangan.

Both Hilal and Nassaji Mazandaran were forced to play the majority of the match in the Iranian capital with 10 men, after the Saudi side’s captain Salman Al Faraj was sent off alongside Amir Houshmand seven minutes before half-time – both for violent conduct.

Hilal were playing in Iran less than 24 hours after compatriots Al Ittihad had refused to enter the pitch in their match against Sepahan in Isfahan because a bust of the slain Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani was on display at the entrance. The game was subsequently called off.

In Group A, 2003 winners Al Ain maintained their 100 percent record with a 4-2 home success against Turkmenistan’s Ahal, while Saudi side Al Fayha ran out 2-0 winners at home to Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor. Al Ain of the UAE are top, three points ahead of Ahal and Fayha.

In the East Asian side of the draw, South Korea’s Incheon United made it two wins from two in Group G with a 4-0 victory at home to Filipino side Kaya-FC Iloilo. Japanese champions Yokohama F Marinos are second in the group after rebounding from an opening defeat to Incheon by defeating Chinese side Shandong Taishan 1-0 on Tuesday.

In Group I, Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale sit top following a 1-0 victory at home against South Korean champions, and 2020 Asian Champions League winners, Ulsan Hyundai. Malaysian club Johor Darul Ta’zim jumped into second with their 4-2 win away at Thailand’s BG Pathum United.

The group stage, which this year returned to a home-and-away format for the first time since early 2020, runs until mid-December, with the 10 pool winners and the six best second-placed teams advancing to the knockout rounds. That begins in February. The final takes place, across two legs, in May.