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Peerless Pakhtakor storm to Uzbekistan title


Bekabad: Dominant FC Pakhtakor sealed the Uzbekistan Super League title with six matches remaining, ending a four-year drought after Dostonbok Khamdanov scored both goals in a 2-1 win away at Metallurg Bekabad on Saturday.

The Tashkent-based club’s record-extending 12th domestic title comes following 12 consecutive league wins and secures direct qualification for the group stage of the 2020 AFC Champions League.

The runaway success also ends the championship streak of city rivals PFC Lokomotiv, who won three successive titles from 2016 to 2018.

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Lokomotiv played a direct role in the ending of their run, settling for a 1-1 draw against FC Kokand 1912 on Friday to open the door for Pakhtakor to seal the title weeks ahead of schedule in Bekabad on Saturday.

It appeared that would a mere formality when Uzbekistan international Khamdanov put them 1-0 up after 12 minutes, before the hosts threw a spanner in the works with a 77th-minute equaliser from Zohir Abdullaev.

But just as it looked as though Pakhtakor’s celebrations might be put on hold, Khamdanov struck again in the very next minute, sealing the title with only 20 matchdays completed out of 26 with a stunning record of 18 wins, two draws and no defeats.

Coached by former Ajax and Glasgow Rangers star Shota Arveladze, much of Pakhtakor’s success is owed to the phenomenal scoring record of Serbian striker Dragan Ćeran, who has bagged 22 goals at a rate of more than one a game to lead his nearest challengers on the scoring charts by 11.

While Lokomotiv have been the leading side in recent years, Pakhtakor have built the most successful record of any club since Uzbekistan first staged a top-flight national league in 1992, winning seven more titles than any other club.

The club also has a proud history in the pre-Independence era, regularly appearing in the top-flight of the powerful Soviet League and becoming the first and only Central Asian club to appear in a Soviet Cup final in 1968.

Photo: FC Pakhtakor

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