2021 AFC Cup Final - Preview: Muharraq, Nasaf seek continental glory again
Arad: The 2021 AFC Cup train reaches its final stop at Sheikh Ali Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium on Friday as 2008 winners Muharraq Club of Bahrain take on 2011 champions FC Nasaf from Uzbekistan in a final showpiece anticipated by Asian football aficionados.
Clashing for the first time in AFC competitions in the red dominated ground located in Bahrain’s northern island are two of the competition’s perennial contenders, both eyeing a second AFC Cup after a decade away from continental glory.
Both clubs share the honour of being the only side from their respective nations to win an AFC competition and the only ones to compete in an AFC Cup final, but for all their proud history in the AFC Cup and before it the Asian Club Championship, the two sides have never met. In fact, Muharraq have never played any Uzbek opponents and Nasaf have never faced a Bahraini side, making for an intriguing clash of styles as pointed out by Muharraq head coach Isa Al Sadoon.
2021 AFC Cup final - Muharraq Club: Players to Watch
Kuala Lumpur: Years pass, generations change but something remains unchanged at Muharraq Club; every player who pulls on the famous red shirt dreams of playing a role in bringing home the AFC Cup title.
Nearly a decade and a half after the iconic mid 2000s squad created history in Bahrain, winning the 2008 AFC Cup, the current contingent are gearing up to face FC Nasaf with the trophy within touching distance. We have picked three players who could play a vital role in the final, having already done say en route to reaching this stage.
Kuala Lumpur: They are the men who have propelled FC Nasaf to Friday’s AFC Cup final, and they will be eager to ensure that the best chapter in the club’s 2021 story remains yet to be written.
With six successive wins to their name and 21 goals scored, there have been several impressive players to Nasaf’s stellar run to the decider against Bahrain's Muharraq Club, but we’ve picked out three of the very best.
2021 AFC Cup Final - The Coach: Isa Al Sadoon (Muharraq Club)
Arad: Few managers are as intertwined with their club’s recent history as Isa Al Sadoon, who prepares to lead Bahrain’s Muharraq Club in the 2021 AFC Cup final against FC Nasaf on Friday.
Born in Bahrain’s northern island of Muharraq and having spent the biggest chunk of his career at his hometown club, Al Sadoon returned for a third spell in charge of the club last year and is now within one match of crowning a lifelong association with Muharraq Club with a continental trophy.
Interning under iconic coach Salman Sharida in the early 2000s, Al Sadoon developed his coaching career through the age group teams at Muharraq, eventually being promoted to an assistant coach post from which he contributed to bringing home Bahraini football’s first-ever continental title as Muharraq Club lifted the 2008 AFC Cup.
Kuala Lumpur: A decade after becoming the first Uzbek club to win the AFC Cup, FC Nasaf are title contenders once again.
Now, after six consecutive wins against opponents from Central Asia and beyond, Ruzikul Berdev’s side are one victory away from expanding on their current status of being the only club from Uzbekistan to win a continental trophy, by becoming the first to win two.
Along the way there have been breakout stars, stunning attacking football and thrilling knockout stage encounters, taking the club from the nation's south one step away from another claiming another piece of Asian football history.
As we edge ever closer to Friday’s decider against Muharraq Club of Bahrain, join the-AFC.com in retracing Nasaf’s steps through the 2021 AFC Cup.
Kuala Lumpur: Determination was the key word in Muharraq Club’s journey towards the 2021 AFC Cup final; their first in 13 years, as the Bahraini club brushed aside two former champions to arrive within 90 minutes from their second continental title.
Pitted against Lebanon’s Al Ansar, Palestine’s Balata Center and Jordan’s Al Salt in Group B which was hosted by the latter in Amman, the start of Muharraq’s journey was far from easy.
Kuala Lumpur: Friday’s 2021 AFC Cup final marks the third time Bahraini powerhouse Muharraq Club feature in the competition’s finale, having last contested it 13 years ago when they defeated Lebanon’s Al Safa to lift a historic title.
Fresh off the disappointment of 2007 AFC Cup group stage exit, Muharraq went into the 2008 edition determined to repeat the heroics that saw them go all the way to the final on their debut in the competition in 2006.
In that exciting, yet ultimately unsuccessful campaign, Muharraq lost to defending champions Al Faisaly 3-0 in the first leg of the final, but attempted a valiant comeback at home in the second leg that was thwarted in the 91st minute by Siraj Al Tall’s goal for the Jordanian side.
“The biggest moment of my career" - Bošković reflects on Nasaf’s 2011 AFC Cup triumph
Karshi: Ten years after FC Nasaf became the first and only club from Uzbekistan to lift a major continental trophy, and with the club one match away from regaining the AFC Cup title they won in 2011, a star of that decade-old triumph will be among those cheering them on.
At virtually every step of Nasaf’s path to the 2021 AFC Cup Final, there have been references to an achievement from a decade prior.
Full of promising young players still in the early years of what look increasingly likely to be long and fruitful careers, Ruzikil Berdiev’s side have powered their way to Friday’s decider against Bahrain’s Muharraq Club, and it's one they fully expect to win.
Kuala Lumpur: The stage is set for the 2021 AFC Cup Final between Bahrain’s Al Muharraq and FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan on Friday.
The two former winners will square off at Sheikh Ali Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, with Al Muharraq looking to add to the title they won in 2008 and Nasaf aiming to win the AFC Cup a decade after being crowned 2011 champions.