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MD1 - Group F: Tajikistan 1-0 Kyrgyz Republic

Dushanbe: Tajikistan made a winning start to their FIFA World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers Group F campaign, defeating neighbours Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 at the Republican Central Stadium on Thursday.

After taking just one point from eight matches at the same stage of qualifying four years ago, Usmon Toshev’s side got the resulted play merited thanks to an Alisher Dzhalilov strike just before half-time

Their win creates an unlikely top of the table clash against Mongolia on Tuesday, while a misfiring Kyrgyz Republic have until October 10 to iron out their problems ahead of their next match against Myanmar.

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Three and a half years since their Russia 2018 campaign came to an end with a defeat against the same opponents, Tajikistan wasted little time showing their improvement, controlling a first-half where Kyrgyz Republic were rarely on the front foot.

In fact, it was only a string of excellent stops from Kyrgyz Republic goalkeeper Pavel Matiash which kept the hosts from scoring earlier, with his reflex stop to deny a follow-up effort from Manuchehr Dzhalilov providing an early contender for the save of the Asian Qualifiers.

That was one of several Tajikistan scoring chances, but Kyrgyz Republic nearly pounced on their failure to capitalise when a quick pass put Mirlan Murzaev through on goal, with the forward desperately unlucky to see his 34th-minute effort strike the left-hand upright with Rustam Yatimov beaten.

Matiash continued to frustrate the hosts with further saves to deny both Parvizjon Umarboev and Manuchehr Dzhalilov, but even he was powerless to stop Tajikistan’s 42nd-minute opener, as Alisher Dzhalilov picked out the bottom corner at the near-post after the Kyrgyz Republic defence had been carved open by a fluid passing move.

With Tajikistan in full flight, the half-time break came at the right time for Kyrgyz Republic, who were able to regain a semblance of control in the second half.

Kyrgyz Republic boss Alexander Krestinin introduced Tajik-based Tursunali Rustamov and newcomer Abai Bokoleev in an attempt to force the issue, but it didn’t translate into opportunities in the final third, with another blinder from Matiash required to prevent Umarboev from extending the lead.

An Edgar Bernhardt free-kick gave Kyrgyz Republic a final chance to leave Dushanbe with a point, but Yatimov easily held his effort as Tajikistan secured three vital points on the Road to Qatar and China PR.

Photos: Tajikistan Football Federation

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