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Alay’s Yusupov hails youngsters despite falling short in AFC Cup classic against Altyn Asyr


Dushanbe: FC Alay boss Numondzhon Yusupov credited his young players for an AFC Cup comeback which ultimately saw the Kyrgyz side edged out 5-4 by Altyn Asyr FC on Monday.

Behind to a disastrous goalkeeping error in the blink of an eye and starting down the barrel of a heavy defeat at 4-1 down after 48 minutes, Alay roared back into contention thanks to a pair of own goals from Guychmyrat Annagulyyev and Furkat Tursunov before remarkably equalising through Adilet Nurlan uulu in the 89th minute.

But just as it looked like Alay had salvaged a first ever AFC Cup point against Turkmen opposition, Asadbek Alimov fouled Altyn Asyr substitute Rahman Myratberdiyev, with Altymyrat Annadurdyyev stepping up to ease home the winner – his fourth goal in two matches – in the third minute of stoppage time.

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It was an epic encounter, producing nine goals - including three own goals and two penalties - but crucially for Alay, they emerged from the clash without any points, confirming their fourth successive group stage elimination.

It was a bitter finale for the Kyrgyz side, but head coach Yusupov praised his charges for their resilience, with particular acclaim for younger players like second half substitutes Suiuntbek Mamyraliev and Nurbolot Yrysbekov.

“We were ready for the match, but we made mistakes, starting with our goalkeeper in the first minute,” said Yusupov.

“We introduced our young players during the second half, and they changed the game. We changed our tactics to something more attacking but unfortunately, we lost the match.

“When the score became 4-4, we expected that the final score was established, but we ultimately finished the match with a defeat.

“We have a lot of inexperienced players, and games like this will help the guys to get more experience for the future.”

Altyn Asyr’s late winner could end up being crucial in the final Group F equation.

Annadurdyev’s strike changed his side’s points tally from two to four after two matches, meaning a win against group leaders FC Nasaf will be enough to carry the Ashgabat side to the knockout stage for a third successive AFC Cup, and head coach Yaguly Hojageldiyev said the result was the most important thing to take from the day.

2021 AFC Cup: FC Alay 4-5 Altyn Asyr FC

“We didn’t expect a match like this today, but a win is a win, and we have got the victory,” he said.

While Altyn Asyr remain unbeaten, they have now shipped six goals in two matches, but Hojageldiyev said he is not overly concerned with that statistic, citing his side’s lack of competitive matches in 2021.

“There is no particular reason (for our defensive record),” he said. “It might be because we haven’t played many matches yet.”

Altyn Asyr’s win continued an outstanding record in the AFC Cup group stage.

The Turkmen champions have strung together 13 matches without defeat in the opening round, with the run stretching back to 2017.

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