Bishkek: FC Istiklol brought up an impressive milestone, while Khatlon continued their excellent start in the last round of football before a league suspension in Tajikistan, and FC Ahal underlined their title credentials with another win Turkmenistan.
Domestic action remains on hold in Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan, although players from both countries featured in Belarusian Premier League action.
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Tajikistan: Kuktosh hit for six as Istiklol bring up 200, league set for hiatus
Title holders FC Istiklol registered their 200th top-flight win with a rampant 6-1 success over Kuktosh, while Khatlon stayed within striking distance in the last round of the Tajikistan Football League action until at least May 10.
Saturday’s Tajikistan Football Federation statement declared the competition - which had been one of the world’s few active leagues - temporarily closed as part of the country’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
While Round 5 will have to wait, Round 4 delivered an abundance of action, with all 10 top-flight clubs scoring at least once, and no less than five players shown red cards in a drama-filled weekend of football.
As ever, the headline act was FC Istiklol, whose big win over Kuktosh included five goals in the final 30 minutes as well as a hat-trick from 17-year-old talent Rustam Soirov and brought up the club’s 200th league win – a stunning achievement considering it was only their 253rd match since their initial promotion to the top division ahead of the 2009 season.
While Istiklol remain the team to beat, Khatlon continue to push them all the way, with only goal difference separating them from the defending champions after Khudoydod Uzokov netted all three goals in a fighting 3-2 win over Lokomotiv-Pamir on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Fayzkand continued their impressive start to the campaign with a 2-1 win over nine-man Istaravshan, while Khujand moved to within three points of the top with a 2-1 win over Regard-TadAZ, with Dushanbe-83 beating CSKA by the same margin in a match where both sides had a man sent off.
Turkmenistan: Ahal ahead as Altyn Asyr struggles continue
It’s still early in the season, but FC Ahal appear to be mounting a genuine bid to become the first team since 2013 to topple Altyn Asyr in Turkmenistan’s Yokary Liga.
Ahal, who have been runners-up on four occasions but never won the league, extended their winning start to four matches on Saturday thanks to a 1-0 win against Kopetdag, with ex-Navbahor midfielder Elman Tagayev scoring the only goal from the penalty spot.
The win puts Ahal two points clear of second placed FC Ashgabat, and six ahead of Altyn Asyr – winners of the last six league titles – who conceded an own goal in the fifth minute of added time in their 1-1 draw with Energetik.
Ashgabat were the weekend’s entertainers, finding the net at will in their 5-2 win over Nebitchi, while 2019 contenders Shagadam finally earned their first win of the campaign thanks to a single goal from former Turkmenistan U-23 international Bayramgeldi Nurlyyev.
Belarus: Kyrgyz Republic’s Shigaibaev makes winning debut
Kyrgyz Republic teenager Emir Shigaibaev was rewarded for his fine form at the reserve level, coming on as a late substitute in FC Neman Grodno’s impressive 3-0 win over Jasurbek Yakhshiboev’s Energetik-BGU Minsk on Friday.
A former U-16 international teammate of last year’s Neman star Gulzhigit Alykulov, 18-year-old Shigaibaev took his first steps in the Premier League with his side already three goals ahead, as Energetik slumped to a third successive defeat.
Uzbekistan international Yakhshiboev played all 90 minutes for the Minsk side, while countryman Shakhboz Umarov appeared as a substitute.
Photos: FC Istiklol, Yokary Liga
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