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ACL2020: Al Hilal savour "important victory" over resilient Pakhtakor

Doha: Al Hilal SFC heaved a sigh of relief after defeating 10-man Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan in Group B of the AFC Champions League on Monday.

Second half substitute Hattan Bahebri scored a late winner to steer the defending champions to a third consecutive victory as the Saudi Arabia club took spot in the group and edged closer to the knockout stage.

Captain Abdullah Al Mayouf said Al Hilal, missing six players who had tested positive for COVID-19, didn't start the match well but managed to take advantage of their numerical superiority to win.

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“We didn’t perform well in the first half,” said the goalkeeper, who was beaten by Pakhtakor's Eren Derdiyok in the second half after Sebastian Giovinco had given Al Hilal the lead in first half stoppage time.

“In the second half, things changed and we played better as we took advantage of Pakhtakor playing with one man down to get the three points.

“It was a good way to restart but now we should focus on winning the next match in order to qualify. After qualifying we must focus on winning the group.”

Group B - MD3: Al Hilal SFC 2-1 Pakhtakor

Mohamed Kanno admitted that Al Hilal were affected by the absence of players who had tested positive for COVID-19.

“It was an important victory, especially as we were missing several players,” said the 25-year-old midfielder. “However, we got the victory with great fighting spirit and with the help of the good tactics from our coach.”

Salem Al Dawsari, who was named as the Player of the Match, labelled the encounter against Pakhtakor as “the most important” in the group.

“It was a difficult match and the most important one for us,” said the 29-year-old midfielder. “Despite all the conditions that we went through, we managed to get the three points.

“We proved that we have great unity and we kept fighting until we scored the winning goal. Our players have great experience, especially in the AFC Champions League and this helped us win.”

Al Hilal play Pakhtakor again on Thursday, knowing another win will all but seal their place in the Round of 16.

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