Nigeria’s Ighalo scores four goals as Al Hilal thrash Al Duhail 7-0 to reach AFC Champions league final

AFP , Sunday 26 Feb 2023

Nigeria star Odion Ighalo scored four goals as title holders Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia blitzed Qatar's Al Duhail 7-0 on Sunday to reach the AFC Champions League final.

Odion Ighalo
Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia Striker Odion Ighalo celebrates with his team mates after scoring a goal during the match between Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia and Qatar's Al-Duhail on Sunday 26 February, 2023. Photo courtesy of Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia Facebook page.

Former Manchester United and Watford striker Ighalo scored his first goal inside 90 seconds to set Al Hilal on the way to the final against Japan's Urawa Red Diamonds where they will seek a record-extending fifth title.

Mali attacker Moussa Merega also scored two as Al Duhail coach, former Argentina star Hernan Crespo, was quickly made to regret his pre-match comments that he had a "strong belief" that his side could go through.

The Duhail defence was torn apart from the start.

The 33-year-old Nigerian headed into an empty goal to open the rout and had an equally easy tap-in for his second after 10 minutes.

Marega was given a simple shot for the third in the 14th minute and soon after narrowly headed over with goalkeeper Bassam Al Rawi beaten.

Put through on a continual offensive of breaks Marega shot the fourth goal into the corner and cleverly backheeled for Salem Al Dawsari to make the score 5-0 at the break.

Marega had a 41st minute volley ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee. Al Hilal had enough chances for a dozen goals.

Ighalo kissed the ground in thanks as the half-time whistle blew. Disconsolate and disgusted Al Duhail fans started leaving.

Crespo changed goalkeepers but Ighalo lobbed over replacement Mohammed Al Burayk two and half minutes after the restart to claim his hat-trick.

Marega was racing down the right wing looking for a third when pulled a muscle, fell to the ground and had to be replaced.

Ighalo shot his fourth goal in the 62nd minute before being substituted by Ramon Diaz, who used to be Crespo's coach at River Plate.

The two match final will be played on April 29 and May 6. Al Hilal beat Urawa when they last met in the final in 2019.

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