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Kenya’s Olunga on target as Al Duhail SC defeat Sepahan in AFC Champions League

3:01 AM EDT 4/11/22
Kenya and Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga of Al Duhail SC.
The 27-year-old Harambee Star returned to the starting XI and helped the Red Knights secure their first group win

Kenya international Michael Olunga popped up with a late goal to enable Al Duhail SC defeat Sepahan 1-0 in their group stage match of the AFC Champions League at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Harambee Stars captain powered home the all-important goal in the 84th minute to help the Red Knights secure their first group win having lost the opener 2-1 against Al-Taawoun on Thursday.

Olunga, who sat out of the game against Taawoun owing to injury, was restored into the starting XI by coach Hernan Crespo and he almost gave Duhail the lead after his glancing header came off the bar in the eighth minute.

Duhail continued to threaten their opponents and it was Olunga who initiated another move from the centre of play in the 24th minute, the cross going to Edmilson Junior, who turned to find Nam Tae-hee but the latter’s weak effort was saved by goalkeeper Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri.

The Iranian club, who had won their group opener 3-1 against Pakhtakor, almost took the lead against the dominant Duhail in the 38th minute when Mohammad Reza Hosseini found himself with space inside the danger zone and unleashed a powerful effort but goalkeeper Salah Zakaria reacted to punch it out.

The two teams headed into the half-time break tied 0-0 and it was Duhail, who started the strongest side in the second period. In the 64th minute, Olunga almost broke the deadlock when his left-footed effort was blocked by Mazaheri after being teed up by Edmilson.

Another golden chance fell to Sepahan’s Hosseini, who after dispossessing former Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld. He raced through on goal but fired the ball wide with only keeper Zakaria to beat.

With six minutes left to the final whistle, the lanky Olunga, finally scored what turned out to be the winner after he jumped the highest to head in Almoez Ali's excellent pass from the right-wing.

Olunga, who joined Duhail from Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol in the 2020 season, finished the just concluded Qatar Stars League season as the top scorer with 24 goals.

The win took Duhail second in the group with three points from two matches and they will next face Uzbek Super League champions Pakhtakor at the same venue on April 18.