Central Asia Domestic Wrap: Relegation drama in Uzbekistan, last minute heroics for Sepahan
Kuala Lumpur: The curtain closed on the main stage of the Uzbekistan Super League season, with Dinamo Samarkand and FC Qiziilqum Zarafshon relegated after a final round of extraordinary drama.
Final day heroics from FK Bukhara sealed their survival, at least temporarily, while FC Bunyodkor claimed third place after becoming the first and only team to beat FC Pakhtakor in domestic competition in 2019.
Elsewhere, Sepahan and Esteghlal shared the spoils in a thriller in Islamic Republc of Iran, while FC Ahal claimed an important win in Turkmenistan.
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Uzbekistan: Qizilqum relegated, Bukhara’s great escape
Qizilqum Zarafshon and Dinamo Samarkand were relegated from the Uzbekistan Super League on a dramatic final day, which evolved into a final weekend after inclement weather forced two key matches to be postponed and completed on Sunday.
Dinamo Samarkand’s fate was sealed despite a 2-1 win away at FC Nasaf, while FK Bukhara emerged as the league’s miracle workers, producing final day heroics to beat high-flying AGMK 2-1 on Saturday.
But even then, Bukhara couldn’t celebrate their achievment until almost 24 hours later, with Qizilqum’s crucial match against FC Andijan suspended due to heavy fog at the 52-minute mark and resumed the following day.
Qiziulqum needed only a draw to leapfrog Bukhara into the temporary safety of a relegation play-off spot, but a 74th-minute goal from Andijan’s Abdullah Alimov consigned them to relegation on goal difference.
Despite their great escape, Bukhara will still need to negotiate a play-off against the second-best team from the second-tier Uzbekistan Pro League if they are to remain in the top flight.
Meanwhile, FC Bunydokor sealed the all-important third place with a 2-2 draw against fourth placed FC Sogdiana. Bunyodkor’s campaign finished with a flourish, becoming the first team in Uzbekistan all season to beat champions FC Pakhtakor, prevailing 3-2 in a memorable Tashkent derby on Wednesday.
IR Iran: Last minute equaliser sends Sepahan top
Sepahan are back on top of the league table in Islamic Republic of Iran, after a last-gasp equaliser closed a pulsating 2-2 draw against FC Esteghlal on Saturday.
Esteghlal’s Cheick Diabate looked to have sealed all three points when he put the Tehran club 2-1 up with 11 minutes remaining, but Omid Noorafkan found the net for Sepahan four minutes into injury time to salvage an important point.
The result, coupled with Shahr Khodrou’s 1-0 home defeat to Sanat Naft, sent unbeaten Sepahan back on top of the table on goal difference after 11 matches.
Foolad were among the weekend’s positive movers, snapping a two-game losing streak to rise to fifth after a 2-0 win over Gol Gohar.
Turkmenistan: Ahal climb to second with key win
FC Altyn Asyr may have already sealed the Yokary Liga title, but the battle for second place continues in earnest after FC Ahal beat FC Shagadam 2-0 on Saturday.
Second-half goals from Serdar Annaorazov and Elman Tagayev sealed the win for Ahal, whose result saw them leapfrog the Turkmenbashi-based side into second on goal difference with two matches remaining.
Elsewhere, champions elect Altyn Asyr continued their superb close to the season with a commanding 4-1 win over Fk Merw.
Photos: Uzbekistan Super League
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