Dushanbe: Altyn Asyr FC sealed a spot in the 2019 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Semi-Finals, with the Turkmenistan club topping Group D after playing to a 1-1 draw with Istiklol FC on Wednesday.
Altyn, the 2018 AFC Cup runners-up, took a 1-0 lead at the start of the second half, but conceded through an Istiklol set-piece before weathering a late charge by their opponents to share the spoils at the Central Republican Stadium.
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Istiklol’s Ruslan Koryan had the first look at goal in the seventh minute when he tested Mammet Orazmuhammedow with a free-kick but the midfielder sent his delivery wide.
Altyn had a go at goal two minutes later against the run of play when Mekan Ashyrov found Altymyrat Annadurdyyev with ample space but the forward wasted the opportunity to put his team in front.
Both sides continued to trade blows but neither could hit the target as Istiklol piled the pressure on their opponents with Koryan coming close in the 13th minute.
Istiklol continued to impose themselves in the match and that left gaps for Altyn to exploit and Istiklol survived a scare a minute from the break when goalkeeper Nikola Stosic was forced into a save by Altymyrat Annadurdyyev’s effort from outside the box.
Koryan almost found a way through for Istiklol at the stroke of half-time when he picked up a pass from Ehson Panshanbe, but his tame effort from outside the area summed up Istiklol’s first half of missed chances as the score remained 0-0 at the break.
Altyn, who have only lost one of their last 16 games in the AFC Cup, came back strongly after the restart as they only needed nine minutes to find the back of the net.
Selim Nurmuradov did well to find Altymyrat Annadurdyyev, who fired a clinical finish from outside the danger area to give Altyn a 1-0 lead.
Istiklol tried to find their way back into the game with Amirbek Dzuraboev and Koryan both wasting opportunities in front of goal but they didn’t have to wait long to find the equaliser.
Mekan Saparov’s foul on Istiklol’s Alisher Dzhalilov proved costly in the 56th minute as Fatkhullo Fatkhulloev stepped up to curl a well executed set-piece a minute later, sending his effort into the bottom right corner to make 1-1.
Fatkhulloev almost doubled Istiklol’s tally five minutes later but he failed to put away Panshanbe’s cross inside the box, while Nuriddin Davronov was also wasteful in front of goal a minute later.
Altyn then came close to breaking the deadlock when Altymyrat Annadurdyyev’s right-footed shot was denied by the woodwork in the 66th minute following Saparov’s assist.
The next half an hour saw Istiklol pressing forward but Orazmuhammedow was quick on his feet as he denied Dzhalilov’s effort in the 85th minute and Panshanbe’s late attempt two minutes later as Altyn preserved their unbeaten streak to finish top of Group D.
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