Kuala Lumpur: Among the many goalscorers to have grabbed the headlines in the 2018 AFC Cup has been Altyn Asyr’s Altymyrat Annadurdyyev, who has struck eight times in as many games in the Turkmenistan side’s march to the Inter-Zone final.
The pacey forward was one of the main reasons the Ashgabat club advanced to the knockout rounds for the first time, after falling short in both 2016 and 2017, and he will be key if Altyn Asyr are to defeat DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC over two legs.
Annadurdyyev is three goals behind the competition’s top scorer, An Il-bom of 4.25, and should Altyn Asyr overcome the Pyongyang team, then the 25-year-old may find himself in the position to finish as the leading marksman in a campaign that has been dominated by the continent’s strikers.
See also :
Analysis: Clinical Altyn Asyr get tactics spot on
AFC Cup 2018 Allianz Goal of the Week: Altymyrat Annadurdyyev
Orazsahedov eyes AFC Cup glory
Although Annadurdyevv has made a name for himself at Altyn Asyr, it was with another Ashgabat side, Ahal FC, that he got his first taste of continental action when he scored one goal in the 2015 group stage as they finished bottom of the standings.
The forward then moved to Altyn Asyr, who have been a regular feature in the AFC Cup since making their debut in 2016, a campaign that saw Annadurdyyev twice come off the bench but fail to add to his tally as his new side propped up a tight group.
A year later Annadurdyyev began to show his goalscoring potential, netting in four successive games as Altyn Asyr claimed 10 points from 12 to leave themselves in a strong position to qualify for the knockout rounds.
However, defeat to Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol, in a game which Annadurdyyev missed, signaled the end of their hopes, but the campaign was a sign of things to come as club and player would return even stronger the following year.
While 2017 proved a success with his club side, the forward also enjoyed a fruitful year internationally as he helped Turkmenistan progress to what will be their second AFC Asian Cup, having also appeared in 2004.
After advancing to the third round of qualifying, Annadurdyyev opened the scoring in the Turkmens’ first Group E game, a 3-1 victory in Chinese Taipei, before his late goal secured a 1-1 draw in Singapore to leave the Central Asians in second place at the midway stage.
Then, after defeating Singapore in Ashgabat, the Altyn Asyr man scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory over Chinese Taipei in Balkanabat as qualification to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 was sealed with a game to spare.
His next task for the national team will be the tournament proper next January, when the Turkmens will be up against four-time champions Japan, Central Asian rivals Uzbekistan and Oman in a tricky-looking group.
Back on the club scene, the 2018 AFC Cup couldn’t have started any better for the Ashgabat native, who scored a hat-trick in a 6-3 victory over FC Alay of Kyrgyz Republic, before netting what would prove a crucial 93rd-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Istiklol.
Four points from two games with Annadurdyyev’s former club Ahal followed, and he was then back on the scoresheet with a brace in a 5-0 win over Alay. Qualification was secured with a last-gasp 3-2 victory in Tajikistan as Altyn Asyr finally gained passage to the knockout phase.
Next up were 2016 runners-up JSW Bengaluru of India and the Turkmen side stunned Sree Kanteerava Stadium by going three up inside 46 minutes of the first leg, with Annadurdyyev netting the second in 3-2 win.
Back in Ashgabat, the forward rocketed in the opener shortly after half-time as Altyn Asyr won 2-0 to advance 5-2 on aggregate. Ahead of next week’s first leg of the Inter-Zone final with 4.25, the side have yet to be defeated and in Annadurdyyev they have one of the most dangerous marksmen in the competition.
Istiklol have twice finished as AFC Cup runners-up, but only one Central Asian side – Uzbekistan’s Nasaf in 2011 – have tasted continental glory. Altyn Asyr will be desperate to add their name to a list dominated by sides from West Asia.
Photo: Getty Images
Recommended Stories :
Flashback: 2017 West Asia Zonal Final
AFC Cup: The Week In Numbers
Central Asia's champions and challengers