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Group D: FC Istiklol down FC Khujand in opener

Dushanbe: Manuchekhr Dzhalilov struck twice as FC Istiklol defeated FC Khujand 2-0 in an all-Tajikistan 2020 AFC Cup Group D tie at the Republican Central Stadium on Wednesday.

It was an intense contest from the first blow of the whistle as both teams went in search of an early advantage, especially Khujand who had fought through the play-offs to reach the Group Stage.

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The visitors did well in applying early pressure, but it was Istiklol who claimed first blood when Khujand’s Sirozh Khamroev failed to properly clear Tabrezi Dzhalilov’s cross, allowing Manuchekhr Dzhalilov to send the loose ball into the back of the net in the 21st minute.

Six minutes later, Khamroev was at fault again for his tackle on Alisher Dzhalilov in the box, and Manuchekhr rose up to the plate to convert the penalty to make it 2-0 by the 29th minute.

The back-and-forth encounter continued well into the second half with the home side looking more promising as Iskandar Dzhalilov and Sheriddin Boboev forced saves out of Khujand goalkeeper Mamur Ikramov before the 50th minute mark.

Istiklol dominated much of the possession but with two goals to their name, patience was the name of the game as they opted to keep the ball with the occasional foray upfront.

Most of Khujand’s attempts came from counter attacks but their best chance only came in the 85th minute with Oibek Abdugafarov’s free-kick narrowly going wide of the left post.

Khujand will welcome Dordoi FC of Kyrgyz Republic, while Istiklol travel to Ashgabat to face Altyn Asyr FC on April 15.

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