Ighalo hits four as Al Hilal storm into Asian Champions League final

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Club World Cup – Semi Final – Flamengo v Al Hilal – Grand Stade de Tanger, Tangier, Morocco – February 7, 2023 Al Hilal’s Odion Ighalo during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Susana Vera

Defending champions Al Hilal crushed Qatar’s Al Duhail 7-0 at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha on Sunday to secure their place in the final of the Asian Champions League and set up a third meeting in six years with Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds.

Odion Ighalo scored four and Moussa Marega netted twice while Salem Al Dawsari was also on target for the four-time winners from Saudi Arabia, who will now take on Urawa over two legs on April 29 and May 6.

The pair last met in 2019 when Al Hilal avenged a loss to the J.League side in the 2017 final and Maciej Skorza’s side will face a major challenge to deny Al Hilal a record fifth title.

Ighalo put Al Hilal in front with barely 90 seconds on the clock when Mohammed Kanno’s persistence set up the former Manchester United striker with the simplest of headed finishes, and the onslaught soon gathered unstoppable momentum.

The Nigerian added a second in the 10th minute having seen Al Duhail goalkeeper Salah Zakaria deny him five minutes earlier.

But when Brazilian winger Michael Oliveira centred, after being released down the right by defender Jang Hyun-soo, Ighalo made no mistake.

Four minutes later Marega slotted in following Al Dawsari’s centre from the left and the Mali international made it 4-0 in the 28th minute when he latched onto goalkeeper Abdullah Al Mauoif’s long punt down the middle.

Al Dawsari hit his side’s fifth seven minutes before the interval when he swept in Marega’s clever backheel and the former Porto forward thought he had claimed a sixth for his side, only for his volley to be ruled out by VAR for offside.

Ighalo ensured there was to be no respite for Al Duhail at the start of the second half when he clipped the ball over Zakaria to complete his hat-trick three minutes after the interval.

He then hit his fourth in the 62nd minute, converting from Abdullah Al Hamdan’s cut-back to put the seal on the most comprehensive win and keep Al Hilal on track to become the first team to claim back-to-back titles since Al Ittihad in 2005.

-Reuters

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