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Group A: Istiklol create AFC Champions League history with win over AGMK


Riyadh: FC Istiklol sealed a historic first ever AFC Champions League win, defeating AGMK 3-2 in their Group A clash at King Fahd International Stadium on Sunday.

A Jovan Đokić own goal and a Manuchehr Dzhalilov strike had the Tajik champions 2-0 up in the match billed as the Central Asian derby, before AMGK pulled a goal back through Zafar Polvonov just before the hour mark. Muhammadjon Rahimov sealed the points for Istiklol with 10 minutes remaining, but only after they survived the nervous finale that followed Polvonov's second in the 90th minute.

The win, a first for any club from Tajikistan in Asia’s premier competition, puts Istiklol second in the group, giving them the chance to go clear on top with a win against Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal SFC on Wednesday.

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A rare AFC Champions League meeting between Uzbek and Tajik clubs made for a cautious opening, with AGMK remaining on the front foot for the most of the first half, albeit without regularly testing Istiklol goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov, who made his first and only save of the half to dent Mirgiyoz Suleymanov 38 minutes in.

But it was Istiklol who made the breakthrough, going ahead when AGMK’s Jovan Đokić turned a wide set-piece delivery from Huseyin Dogan into his own net, giving the Tajik champions their first ever group stage goal with one of the final acts of the first half.

Things got even better for them after the interval, when Tajikistan’s all-time top scorer Dzhalilov made it 2-0 with his first ever AFC Champions League goal, rifling a 12-yard effort in at the near post following a persistent run and pass from Rahimov in the 55th minute.

This time AGMK responded, pulling a goal back just two minutes later back through Polvonov, whose header beat the wrong-footed Yatimov after clipping Vahdat Hanonov’s shoulder following a corner kick, giving the AGMK striker his second for the tournament.

The game was well and truly alive, and AGMK almost found themselves level a minute later, with Polvonov again finding the net, only to see his effort ruled out for offside, and Mirdjalol Kasimov’s men continued to threaten thereafter.

It was that push for an equaliser which ultimately led to AGMK's downfall, however, when they were picked apart on the counterattack in the 80th minute, culminating in a third Istiklol goal, this time from Rahimov, who squeezed the ball into the bottom corner from 15 yards to cap an excellent individual display.

Some slack defending allowed the admirable Polvonov to pull another goal back with a poacher’s finish in the last minute of normal time, but Istiklol held on to secure a win that will go down in the annals of Tajik football.

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