Asia AFC Champions League

Al-Hilal, Al-Duhail to Meet in ACL Semifinal

Saudi Arabian titans Al-Hilal and Qatari powerhouses Al-Duhail are set to clash against each other in the 2022 AFC Champions League West Zone semifinal this Sunday after winning their respective quarterfinal matches on Thursday.

Al-Duhail took on Saudi Arabia’s Al-Shabab at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha, with the match being a tightly-contested encounter that failed to yield any dividends for more than an hour.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 77th minute, after this year’s top-scorer Edmilson Junior teed up Michael Olunga with a corner, with the former Kashiwa Reysol striker thumping home a powerful header past Al-Shabab goalkeeper Kim Seung-gyu, who was Olunga’s former teammate at Kashiwa.

Kenya international Olunga doubled Al-Duhail’s lead in the 85th minute, once again beating Seung-gyu with a well-taken finish after receiving a perfect pass from substitute Ismaeel Mohammed.

Al-Shabab clawed one back in the third minute of injury time thanks to a fine strike from defender Saeed Al-Rubaie, but it was too late for the men in white as Al-Duhail hung onto their lead and book themselves a spot in the semifinal.

Hernan Crespo’s Al-Duhail will face-off against another Riyadh-based side in defending ACL champions Al-Hilal, who saw off Iran’s Foolad Khuzestan 1-0 at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah.

Making their ACL quarterfinal debut, Foolad were seeking to emulate the likes of Persepolis, Esteghlal, Sepahan, and Zob Ahan in representing Iran in the competition’s semifinal, and they managed to keep heavy favorites Al-Hilal at bay throughout a good chunk of the match.

The likes of Hamid Bou Hamdan, Ehsan Pahlavan, Roberto Torres, and Amin Hazbavi came close into giving Foolad a shock lead, with Austrian goalkeeper Christopher Knett performing excellently between the Foolad sticks to frustrate Al-Hilal to no end.

Foolad’s hard work were undone in the 87th minute, however, after former FC Porto striker Moussa Marega managed to slam the ball home past Knett and into the bottom corner of the goal, relieving much of Al-Hilal’s tension as they survived a testing match against a worthy opponent.

Both Al-Duhail and Al-Hilal will duke it out on Sunday’s semifinal at the Al-Thumama Stadium, with the winner set to take on Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the two-legged final.