Publish: 21 Feb 2023, 03:32 pm
Storied Asian outfit Al Hilal stayed well on course to further enhance their credentials after storming into the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League on Monday.
The reigning champions from Saudi Arabia saw off Shabab Al Ahli of the UAE 3-1 in their last-16 tie at Qatar's Al Janoub Stadium, as they chase a possible fifth continental title, reports AFP.
Fresh from their exploits barely a week ago in the FIFA Club World Championship in Morocco where they finished runners-up to Real Madrid, they joined compatriots Al Shabab in the last eight -- hoping to win the title for the third time in four years.
Al Shabab had qualified on Sunday, beating Uzbekistan's FC Nasaf 2-0 after Qatar giants Al Duhail pipped domestic rivals Al Rayyan 7-6 via penalties, following a 1-1 draw after extra-time.
Nigerian Odion Ighalo set things in motion on Monday for Al Hilal with a clinical 17th minute strike after receiving a fine assist from Moussa Marega.
The match slackened off for a while before Jang Hyun-soo scored with a diving header and Luciano Vietto applied the finishing touch to a deft backheeled pass from Salem al-Dawsari to make it made it 3-0 with 10 minutes remaining.
Syrian striker Omar Khribin pulled one back in the 86th minute but that came a bit too late in the day for Al Shabab Al Ahli to mount a serious challenge.
- Iran's Foolad through -
Earlier on Monday, Iran's Foolad Khuzestan scraped into the quarter-finals of courtesy of a cagey 1-0 over Saudi Arabia's Al Faisaly.
Both sides were meeting for the first time ever in the tournament and aiming to make up for their poor form in their respective domestic leagues where they are struggling to keep pace with their rivals.
While Al Faisaly were relegated from the Saudi Pro League to the First Division after they made the last-16 of the continental tournament, Foolad are in ninth position in the Iran Pro League -- a whopping 18 points behind leaders Sepahan.
But with plenty to play for, it was Foolad who made the most of the situation with Sasan Ansari's 64th minute strike proving decisive at the Al Thumama Stadium.
Foolad enjoyed 54 percent possession but had only three shots on target, with Ansari scoring off one of those with a right-footed shot.
Six minutes earlier, Roberto Torres had his shot saved by the Al Fasaily goalkeeper Ahmed al-Kassar despite being wrong-footed by a deflection
Torres was a constant thorn for the Saudi side, the Spaniard going close at the 30-minute mark, his curling free-kick from about 25 yards out just missing the post
Al Faisaly, on the other hand, barely produced a shot on target as they struggled to crack the Iranians' defence.
Foolad's moment of joy came in the 64th minute when some lacklustre defending by Waleed al-Ahmed saw Ansari snatch the ball and deposit it into the net from close.
Al-Ahmed could have compensated for his blunder one minute before the final whistle but his fine headed attempt off an excellent Abdulla al-Qahtani corner just missed the target.
The last eight matches will be held on Thursday with the semi-final scheduled for Feb. 26.
The winners will take on Japan's Urawa Reds in a two-legged final to be played on April 29 and May 6.
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