TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Uzbekistan Pakhtakor came from behind to defeat Esteghlal football team of Iran 2-1 in the 2020 AFC Champions League Round of 16 at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday.
- Sports news -
A physically intense opening half of an hour saw little in the way of scoring chances despite Pakhtakor's clear dominance.
Pakhtakor had its best chance of the first 30 minutes when Dragan Ceran tested the goalkeeper from long range but Hossein Hosseini was alert and made the save.
With 32 minutes gone, Esteghlal's Mehdi Ghaedi looked to make his way into the penalty box but was brought down just outside the area by Khojiakbar Alijonov.
Ali Karimi stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and beautifully curled it into the back of the net, leaving goalkeeper Eldorbek Suyunov rooted to the spot.
Two minutes before the end of the half, Pakhtakor found their equalizer. Sardor Sobirkhodjaev set-up Alijonov to cross from deep at the far post where Ceran was first to the ball, guiding his diving header past Hosseini to draw Pakhtakor level.
Just after the break, a swift and progressive exchange of passes in the opposition half allowed Sobirkhodjaev to find Erin Deriyok with plenty of space down the right and the Swiss striker drilled a half-volleyed effort from the edge of the box into the bottom corner to give Pakhtakor the lead for the first time in the game.
Esteghlal looked to respond and by the 54th minute, it had a major goal scoring chance when Ghaedi cut inside from the left and whipped a cross into the six yard box for Diabate who poked it goalward, but Suyunov was well positioned and clutched into the ball to keep his side in front.
Pakhtakor controlled possession for long stretches of the second half and had multiple half-chances; most notably Jaloliddin Masharipov's low shot from the edge of the box at the hour mark and the winger's curled effort from a free-kick that crept agonizingly wide off Hosseini's goal with 15 minutes to go.
With just nine minutes to go, Esteghlal had their last big chance to equalize as Ghaedi set up Diabate with a cute pass inside the box and the Malian forward beat his marker and had the goal at his mercy, but somehow fluffed his lines and sent the ball wide.