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Istiklol's Levchenko prepared to learn from ‘game of two halves’

Dushanbe: FC Istiklol head coach Vitalii Levchenko reflected with both satisfaction at three points gained and eagerness to discover the cause of a drop in second-half intensity after his side defeated FC Khujand 2-0 in their opening 2020 AFC Cup Group D clash on Wednesday.

An early double from returning national team star Manuchehr Dzhalilov put the Tajik champions two goals clear at half-time, but their countrymen gave them much more of a battle after the break, and Levchenko said his staff would analyse the reason for his side’s switch-off.

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“The game was divided into two halves,” said Levchenko, who held the reins at Khujand during their 2019 AFC Cup campaign.

“In the first half we completely controlled the game, owned the initiative, created the best moments and scored the goals, then the guys played the second half only to maintain the score.

“There was some kind of uncertainty, which gave our opponents a lot of space and freedom in the game, so we will try to understand why this happened.”

Quizzed on whether Istiklol’s less fluent second half had been part of a plan aimed at protecting their two-goal advantage, Levchenko said the momentum shift had been more phycological than tactical.

“By no means was it conceived. It is most likely (due to) psychology,” said Levchenko.

Group D: FC Istiklol 2-0 FC Khujand

“During half-time we said that the guys should not stop, but rather add movement, because – based on the first half – our opponents played in a positional defence and we weren’t pressured.

“I told the guys the opposing coach would make adjustments, apply more pressure and that they should prepare for this, but again, the matter is based on psychology. When the team enters half-time at 2-0, it basically feels as if the game has already won.

“We will draw conclusions, understand what happened, and make adjustments.”

Istiklol’s clash with Khujand was one of several AFC Cup matches to be played behind closed doors this week, with the Covid-19 coronavirus increasingly affecting the football world.

While Istiklol’s fans were unable to attend the match at Republican Central Stadium, Levchenko said he was delighted to have provided them with a victory to celebrate.

“On my own behalf and on behalf of the team I want to congratulate the fans, who unfortunately were not present at our game,” he said.

“I think they liked the game, watching on their TV screens, so congratulations, especially to our fans.”

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