Roberto Mancini fielded a mix of first-team stars and young reserves in Innsbruck but saw his side beaten by a second-half strike in their first pre-season fixture
Nawaf Al Abed provided the only goal of the game in the second half, firing into the corner after being afforded too much space by the Premier League champions' defence.
City fielded a handful of first-team regulars, including Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and captain Vincent Kompany, but Al Hilal kept them largely quiet for the opening period, except for Aleksandar Kolarov’s early saved effort which was the only shot on target of the entire first half.
Both teams forged early chances, though in truth failed to truly threaten in a cagey opening period. Yaya Toure looked to have put young striker Luca Scapuzzi clear through on 25 minutes but offside was called, a decision that appeared wrong on replay.
Al Hilal, too, were the recipients of an unfortunate refereeing decision when the assistant did not realise that Youssef El-Arabi, flying in from the left-hand side onto a useful through-ball, was being played on by a City man. The Saudis came close again moments later when Kompany executed an excellent block, his second such key interception of the half.
Yaya Toure was beginning to come into his own and he nearly created an excellent opportunity with a surging run through the middle, though the move ended with Adam Johnson’s wayward pass. It proved the last real threat of a very relaxed first half.
There was no surprise as both sides made widespread changes at half-time. City's alterations included the introduction of Mario Jelavic, the young striker who had joined up with the squad's Austrian training camp two days previously for a trial. Old head Kolo Toure led the new-look line-up out for the second period.
The best chance of the match so far fell to Omar Elabdellaoui 10 minutes after the break, the young forward jumping for a left-sided Jeremy Helan cross and nodding into the ground, the ball bouncing up only just wide of the far post.
There was barely a hint of goalmouth action otherwise until the 68th minute. The Premier League champions got bunched up in defence as the Saudis came forward, leaving space left of centre for Al Abed to shoot. The No.24’s effort was reasonably powerful but young goalkeeper Eirik Johansen, who got a hand to it as it went in, could have done more to keep it out.
Johansen did better a few moments later, however, to stand firm and force a corner as Al Hilal took complete control of the game, City’s youthful XI struggling to shut them out.
They looked better on the attack, but Kolo Toure headed over from a corner from a good position before Harry Bunn and Stefan Savic crowded each other out of an opening in the box. There was no recovery forthcoming for Roberto Mancini's men.