Asia AFC Champions League

Ighalo Scores Four as Al-Hilal Obliterate Al-Duhail to Set ACL Final Date with Urawa

Former Manchester United and Watford striker Odion Ighalo scored a quad-trick as defending AFC Champions League winners Al-Hilal easily marched their way into this year’s final for a shot in retaining their title. The Saudi Arabian giants utterly obliterated Qatari powerhouses Al-Duhail 7-0 at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha in Sunday’s semifinal clash.

The battle between Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s finest in the ACL’s penultimate stage should be a showcase of two of West Asia’s strongest teams battling out for a chance to stake their claim for the continent’s best against the top dogs of East Asia. Instead, it’s a one-sided beatdown that showed how Al-Hilal are an unstoppable force in continental football throughout the past few years.

Not even a Moussa Marega goal being chalked-off just before half-time could slow down Al-Hilal. In fact, it’s a mere miniscule consolation for Al-Duhail as they at least didn’t go down 8-0 at the end of the day.

Whilst many expected Al-Hilal to be given a stern test by Hernan Crespo’s Al-Duhail – the Qataris did squeak past Al-Hilal’s city rivals Al-Shabab in the quarters – an excellent combination between Mohammed Kanno and Ighalo shattered any doubts just 90 seconds into the match, with the former squaring off towards the latter to finish things off with a close-ranged header.

Ighalo then doubled his tally in the 10th minute, latching onto a Michael ball before skipping past Al-Duhail goalkeeper Salah Zakaria and squeezing the ball into the goal.

Former FC Porto man Marega then made it 3-0 in the 14th minute, converting a Salem Al-Dawsari cross from the left flank to further pull Al-Hilal away from their opponents.

By then the game was already settled, with Al-Duhail looking completely shell-shocked by their opponents’ ruthlessness. But Al-Hilal weren’t willing to loosen things up just yet.

Marega completed his brace in the 27th minute, before turning from scorer to provider to allow Al-Dawsari to make it 5-0 with a spectacular finish in the 38th minute.

VAR intervention prevented Marega from having his hat-trick at the end of the first half but by then the game was already beyond Al-Duhail’s reach.

And it was Ighalo who managed to complete his hat-trick of his own, scooping an Al-Dawsari ball over Zakaria to make it 6-0 in the 48th minute.

Not content with scoring just three, Ighalo made it four on the night by scoring Al-Hilal’s seventh and final goal of the game in the 62nd minute, taking advantage of an Abdullah Al-Hamdan pass to once again force Zakaria to pick the ball out of his net.

Al-Hilal’s thrashing of Al-Duhail showed that the men in blue are indeed the heavy favorites for the upcoming final, where they will face off against Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds. The first leg will be played in Riyadh on April 29th, while the second leg will be played in Saitama on May 6th.