1232 GMT April 04, 2020
An Igor Sergeev brace in three minutes and a late Sherzod Azamov header led Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor to a 3-0 victory over Iranian side Shahr Khodro in Group A of the 2020 AFC Champions League (ACL) on Monday.
Shahr Khodro – a debutant in the competition – came into the game following a first-day 2-0 defeat at the hands of defending champion Al Hilal, while Pakhtakor was looking to build on a 2-1 victory over Shabab Al Ahli Dubai.
A cagy first half in Tashkent saw the home side dominate the possession despite the best chance of the half coming the visitor’s way.
Uzbek keeper Khojiakbar Alijonov had to pull off a double save on Akbar Sadeqi’s header and Mohammad Qazi’s close-range effort in the 32nd minute to keep the result goalless in the first half.
A moment of brilliance by Jaloliddin Masharipov saw Pakhtakor break the deadlock in the 56th minute when the Uzbek midfielder dribbled past two defenders to set up Sergeev for the opener.
Sergeev was on target three minutes later when he opened an empty net on Dostonbek Khamdamov’s unselfish pass.
Azamov sealed the victory for the host with three minutes left on the clock, heading home Masharipov’s free-kick into the roof of Seyyed Mehdi Rahmati’s net.
Next for Shahr Khodro is an away fixture against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai on March 7 with Pakhtakor playing Al Hilal in Riyadh on the same day.
Persepolis will be eyeing a first victory in the competition against the UAE champion Sharjah in Group C today, while Sepahan will hope to keep up the momentum against Qatari giant Al Sadd after a first-day 4-0 thrashing of Al Ain.
Two goals inside first 13 minutes stunned Yahya Golmohammadi’s men against Qatar’s Al Duhail in Doha last week as the Iranian champion fell to a 2-0 defeat.
New signing Irishman Anthony Stokes seeks his first start for Persepolis while veteran skipper Seyyed Jalal Hosseini could also be back in the backline in Sharjah after he sat out the defeat in Doha.
The Emirati side also eyes its first win in the competition, having suffered a 1-0 defeat against Al Taawoun last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Amir Qalenoei’s Sepahan – currently second in the domestic league – has the opportunity to widen the lead on top of Group D against Xavi’s Al Sadd – which settled for a 2-2 draw against Saudi side Al Nassr on Matchday One.