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Nigeria’s Ighalo hits brace as Al Hilal defeat Istiklol to storm AFC Champions League Round of 16

07:42 GMT 20/04/2022
Nigeria player Odion Ighalo of Al Hilal.
The 32-year-old Super Eagle was in superb form as his double helped the Saudi giants registered their fourth straight win in Group A

Nigeria international Odion Ighalo scored a brace to help Al Hilal defeat Istiklol 3-0 to become the first team to qualify for the Round of 16 of the AFC Champions League on Tuesday night.

The Saudi Arabian giants were the better side in the Group A fixture at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium and they took a deserved lead in the eighth minute courtesy of the 32-year-old Super Eagle.

Ighalo then doubled the lead in the 33rd minute before Salem Al Dawsari powered home the third deep into stoppage time.

It took Al Hilal only eight minutes to take the lead and it was Ighalo who found the back of the net after jumping the highest to head a cross from Salman Al Faraj past goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov.

Two minutes after the goal, Tajikistan’s Istiklol were forced into an early change when their keeper Yatimov suffered an injury and was replaced by Mukhriddin Khasanov.

Ighalo notched the second after he latched onto a cross from Mohammed Al Burayk while inside the box, made a quick turn, left his marker stranded, and slot the ball home with a right-footed effort past Khasanov.

The second period also saw Al Hilal dominate proceedings and Ighalo could have grabbed a hat-trick in the 56th minute when he jumped once again to meet another cross from Al Faraj with a powerful header but this time Khasanov reacted quickly to put the ball out.

Istiklol had a good chance to reduce the deficit in the 67th minute when Eric Bocoum set up Muhammad Isaev but the second-half substitute could not find the target from the edge of the box as his effort went inches wide.

Al Dawsari then sealed the emphatic win for Al Hilal after he scored from close range deep into added time to help his side claim a fourth straight victory and a slot in the Round of 16.

Ighalo, who joined Al Hilal from Al Shabab, has now scored two goals in the competition.

The result ensured Al Hilal remain unbeaten in the group from four matches, and are top with 12 points, five more than Al Rayyan, while UAE’s Sharjah - who lost 3-1 to the Qatari side also on Tuesday - are third with four points.

Ighalo and Al Hilal will return to action with their matchday five fixture against Sharjah at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium on April 23.