Bishkek: As a new year dawns on Asian football, many clubs throughout Central and South Asia had little time to reflect on the 12 months just gone, with matches coming thick and fast in Islamic Republic of Iran, India and Bangladesh.
In this week’s wrap, Esteghlal and Sanat Naft continue to thrive in Iran, Mumbai City hit the ground running in 2021, while Bangladesh draws ever closer to its first piece of domestic silverware for the new year, plus key appointments in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
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IR Iran: Esteghlal top of the pops as Persepolis winless streak grows
New year, same Esteghlal. The Tehran giants continued their encouraging recent run with a 2-0 win over Aluminium Arak on Tuesday, with goals from Amir Arsalan Motahari and Mehdi Ghayedi either side of half-time sealing the points.
With 18 points from nine matches, and an unbeaten run stretching seven matches, Esteghlal are level on points with Sanat Naft Abadan, but hold advantages in goal difference and a game in hand.
Sanat Naft beat Naft Masjed Soleyman 2-0 on Monday, while Tractor and Payken – both on 16 points and in third and fourth respectively – also picked up wins on Tuesday.
Sitting a distant 10th, albeit having only played seven matches, are defending champions and 2020 AFC Champions League runners-up Persepolis (11 points), who played to a third consecutive draw – a 0-0 result against Sepahan – on Tuesday.
Yahya Golmohammadi’s side have drawn all three of their matches since losing 2-1 to Ulsan Hyundai FC in the Continental decider. They haven’t tasted victory since their 3-0 win over Shahr Khodro way back in November.
India: Happy New Year for Mumbai City, ATK Mohun Bagan
The first, hopeful days of 2021 have provided plenty of reason to celebrate for fans of Mumbai City who took the maximum six available points from their opening two matches of the new year.
Goals from Adam Le Fondre and Hugo Boumous helped them to a 2-0 victory over Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League’s first clash in 2021 on Saturday, before they backed it up with a 3-1 success against Sunil Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC three days later.
Those results leave Mumbai City top the table on 22 points from nine matches, two ahead of ATK Mohun Bagan, who continued their impressive form with a 2-0 win against NorthEast United.
At the other end of the table, East Bengal defeated Odisha 3-1 to claim their first victory of the season, and leave their opponents firmly rooted to the bottom of the table.
After finishing a competitive sixth last season, Odisha have claimed just two points from their first eight outings of the 2020-21 campaign.
Bangladesh: Final four confirmed in Federation Cup
Only an elite quartet remain after a series of closely fought series of quarter-finals in Bangladesh’s Federation Cup.
Chittagong Abahani will face Saif Sporting Club in the first of the semi-finals on Wednesday, but only after the former scored twice in the second half of extra-time to eliminate Group A winners Sheikh Russel KC 2-0 on Saturday.
Saif eased through the group stage but were also forced to fight until the end in their knockout clash against Mohammedan, which finished 7-6 on penalties after a 2-2 draw which included a fourth goal in as many matches from Nigerian forward Kenneth Ikechukwu.
The other semi-final will be held on Thursday, with Bashundhara Kings to face Abahani Limited Dhaka. The final will run and won on Sunday at Bangabandhu National Stadium, which has hosted every match in the competition.
Kyrgyz Republic/Tajikistan: New bosses for Alay, Istaravshan
Kyrgyz Republic Cup winners FC Alay Osh have revealed the man tasked with guiding them in this season’s AFC Cup, with Tajikistan’s Numonjon Yusupov confirmed as their new head coach.
The 47-year-old, a one-time head coach at regular AFC Cup qualifiers FC Khujand, held his first press conference on Tuesday, with a pair of new signings – Georgian duo Tornike Jimsheleishvili and David Kupatadze – also unveiled.
Elsewhere, Tajikistan Football League outfit FC Istaravshan also announced their new head coach during the week, with former Tajikistan international defender Rakhmatullo Fuzailov set to take charge.
Fuzailov, who enjoyed a fruitful playing career in his homeland as well as Uzbekistan and Russia, is set to combine his role with that of assistant coach for the national U-19 side.
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