Omar Khribin’s hat-trick in Abu Dhabi helped put the Saudi Arabian side well on its way to a second final in four years and leaves its Iranian opponent with a mountain to climb at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, the-afc.com reported.
Persepolis’ first appearance in the AFC Champions League semifinals could not have gone any worse and means the Iranians now need to record their biggest win ever in the competition in order to advance.
Trailing 2-0 at the break in the first leg, the Tehran club was handed a lifeline early in the second half when Abdullah Otayf was sent off, but Persepolis then proceeded to concede two more and is now staring elimination firmly in the face.
Missing its leading scorer Mehdi Taremi, Persepolis needs the rest of its frontline to step forward and the striker’s direct replacement, Godwin Mensha, will hope to add to the two goals he scored against Al Ahli in the last round.
No other Persepolis player has scored more than a single goal in the competition, but the attack-minded trio of Mohsen Mosalman, Vahid Amiri and Ali Alipour are all capable of finding the back of the net and will need to do exactly that if the Iranian team is to have any chance of making the final.
Al Hilal remains the only unbeaten team in this year’s competition and, after the 3-0 victory over Al Ain in the second leg of the quarterfinals, has now netted seven without reply in its past two games.
Khribin has been in fine form for both club and country of late and seven goals on the continent leaves him just two adrift of the tournament’s leading scorer, Hulk, but Al Hilal boasts plenty of attacking options elsewhere.
Carlos Eduardo also sits on seven goals after the Brazilian registered a treble against Al Ain, while Nawaf al-Abed always poses a threat and Salem al-Dawsari was outstanding in the first leg in claiming two assists.