Tajikistan top after super start, Afghanistan grab late point
Dushanbe: Tajikistan announced their arrival at the 2019 CAFA U-19 Championship, storming to a spectacular 5-1 win over Turkmenistan, while Afghanistan came from two goals behind to salvage a fighting 2-2 draw against Uzbekistan on Saturday.
Tajikistan’s thumping win sent them directly to the top of table, leapfrogging Islamic Republic of Iran on goal difference with three Matchdays remaining in the regional competition, which serves as a crucial warm-up for this year’s AFC U-19 Championship 2020 Qualifiers.
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TURKMENISTAN 1-5 TAJIKISTAN
Tajikistan issued an early tournament warning, piling on four late goals to earn a 5-1 win in their opening match of the competition against Turkmenistan at Dushanbe Central Stadium.
With eight of their starting 11 players having graduated from last year’s AFC U-16 Championship squad – which made it all the way to the Continental final in Malaysia – Tajikistan showed they are a force at regional level with a comprehensive display.
Aziz Kambarov’s Turkmenistan side had impressed in their opening day 2-2 draw with Afghanistan, and they matched Tajikistan early before taking the lead when Rahman Myratberdiyev headed home from a 16th-minute corner kick, before Amadoni Kamalov put the finishing touches on a lovely passing move to equalise for the hosts in the 34th minute.
The scored remained at 1-1 until substitute Shahrom Samiev put Tajikistan in front for the first time with a left-footed effort in the 75th minute, and that breakthrough proved to be the beginning of the end for Turkmenistan as the hosts took full control.
Rustam Soirov scrambled the ball home to extend the lead in the 88th minute, then doubled his personal tally with a 25-yard screamer four minutes later, before 18-year-old Samiev showed why he already features for both FC Istiklol and Tajikistan’s senior national team, superbly rounding the goalkeeper Serdar Rovshenov before scoring from an improbable angle in the fifth minute of added time.
Turkmenistan face another difficult assignment in Islamic Republic of Iran on Monday, while Tajikistan are back in action against Afghanistan later that night.
AFGHANISTAN 2-2 UZBEKISTAN
In Saturday’s earlier match, Uzbekistan raced to a 2-0 half-time lead only for Afghanistan to launch an impressive recovery and claim a second successive 2-2 draw.
The result leaves regional powerhouse Uzbekistan with just one point to show for their first two matches, after an 86th-minute equaliser from Tareq Mohammadi ensured the points would be shared.
Uzbekistan showed few signs of trouble early, taking the lead when Bekzhod Shamsiev applied the finishing touch to a beautifully worked, and evidently well-rehearsed, short corner routine in the 10th minute.
Their position became even stronger when Takhir Rafaelov slammed in a second off the woodwork in the final moments of the first-half, but Afghanistan hit back just before the hour mark as Farshid Wojdi showed great composure to slip home his second goal in as many days.
Further chances followed for Afghanistan, but the decisive moment came with four minutes of normal time remaining, when the marauding Wojdi supplied a cross-field pass for Mohammadi who unleashed a precision first-time effort from 15 yards to give Ahmad Zia Azimi’s side a share of the spoils.
Afghanistan will face table-toppers Tajikistan when the competition resumes on Monday, while Uzbekistan have until Tuesday to recover for their next match, also against the tournament hosts.
Monday (all times local): IR Iran v Turkmenistan (17:00), Tajikistan v Afghanistan (20:00).
Photos: Central Asian Football Association
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