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Preliminary Stage 2: PFC Lokomotiv (UZB) 0-1 FC Istiklol (TJK)


Tashkent: A second half stunner from Alisher Dzhalilov helped Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol claim a surprise 1-0 away win over PFC Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan in the AFC Champions League Preliminary Round 2 on Tuesday.

Tajikistan’s reigning player of the year, Dzhalilov lived up to his billing with a swerving strike just before the hour mark, taking the 2015 AFC Cup runners-up a step closer to their first ever AFC Champions League group stage appearance in the continent’s top club competition.

The result comes as a severe blow for Lokomotiv, whose defeat sees them miss out on the group stage for the first time since 2014.

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Both sides were spearheaded by new winter arrivals – Marat Bikmaev and Kirill Pogrebnyak for Lokomotiv, and Tajikistan national team star Manuchehr Dzhalilov for Istiklol – but it didn’t translate to an abundance of chances, with the first half producing a single shot at goal from each team.

Lokomotiv had 70 percent possession in the opening 45 minutes, but it was the visitors who took the ascendancy after the break, with Alisher Dzhalilov’s swerving 35-yard effort wrong-footing veteran goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov and finding the back of the net.

The hosts tried desperately to keep their campaign alive, but a deflected header from defender Kakhi Makharadze was the closest they came to a late equaliser, as Mubin Ergashev’s side celebrated a major breakthrough on the continental stage.

FC Istiklol will meet Al Ahli Saudi FC in next week’s Playoff round, with the winners to earn a place in Group A with Al Wahda FSCC of UAE, Iraq's Al Shorta and another qualifier.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association

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