Matchday Five - Group D: FC Ahal 0-1 FC Istiklol
Ashgabat: Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev's 52nd minute strike kept FC Istiklol at the summit of Group D in the 2018 AFC Cup, after they beat FC Ahal 1-0 on Tuesday.
After a quiet first half, the 2017 runners-up came out of the half-time break with renewed energy and drive to find a winner, coming close within just three minutes when Artem Baranovsky’s header from Fatkhulloev’s cross was cleared away.
The winning goal did come just moments later when Fatkhulloev received Akhtam Nazarov’s pass just outside the penalty area and drilled an effort into the bottom corner of goalkeeper Babayev Batyr’s net for his third goal of the campaign.
The hosts pushed for an equaliser and had two dangerous chances back-to-back in the final 10 minutes as Merdan Kurbanov tested goalkeeper Nikola Stosic from distance but the Serbian came unscathed on both occasions to help his side to all three points.
The Tajik side extended their unbeaten run to five games as they moved to 13 points, in pole position to snatch the group’s Inter-Zonal Semi-finals ticket. Ahal, meanwhile stayed at four points in third place.