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ACL2020: Lucescu hails Al Hilal fighting spirit in late Pakhtakor win

Doha: Al Hilal SFC head coach Razvan Lucescu hailed his players after the side’s hard fought 2-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor FC on Matchday Three of the 2020 AFC Champions League Group B on Monday.

With a draw looking the likeliest possibility at Al Janoub Stadium deep into stoppage time, midfielder Hattan Bahebri’s deflected shot settled matters against a 10-man Pakhtakor.

The result took defending champions Al Hilal to the top of Group B on nine points, with their opponents staying put in second place with six points. Should the reigning champions defeat Pakhtakor again on Thursday, they will guarantee progression to the Round of 16.

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“This win was of paramount importance to us in this difficult time,” said Lucescu.

“I would like to congratulate this group of players who were outstanding throughout today, kept fighting till the end and got stronger, and managed to beat a side that is well organised and physically strong.

“Generally, Pakhtakor had more of the ball but we rushed our chances at times, and could have moved the ball better down the flanks.”

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

On the other hand, Pakhtakor boss Shota Arveladze rued the ‘small details’ that gave Al Hilal the advantage over his side, while remaining defiant and acknowledging the need to put the defeat behind them.

“Both sides spent the past four weeks preparing for this competition, yet small details and minor mistakes are the reason we lost this match,” said the former Ajax and Rangers striker.

“We lost against the best team in Asia, but it feels bad to have lost this late on in the match. We are looking ahead despite the defeat.

"The coaching staff will now make sure that the team knows this game is behind us, and have the players recover physically and mentally because we still have three games to go.

“In our next match against Al Hilal, we will try to play our game and win.”

Thursday sees the two teams facing off again at Al Janoub Stadium with the winners edging ever-closer to the knockout stage.

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