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Central Asian Domestic Wrap: Advantage Lokomotiv, Dordoi stay on track

Bishkek: Uzbekistan’s PFC Lokomotiv took a significant step towards a return to AFC Champions League football, while FC Dordoi’s bid for a second successive Kyrgyz Premier League title gathered steam thanks to two international stars.

Also this week, the return of league action in Tajikistan, Islamic Republic and Turkmenistan saw heavyweight clubs in all three countries produce important wins.

Join as we cover all the key results from Andijan to Ashgabat and beyond.

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Uzbekistan: Lokomotiv a step closer to Asia, Qizilqum score crucial win

PFC Lokomotiv’s title hopes were dashed long ago, but the defending Uzbekistan Super League champions took a major step towards the 2020 AFC Champions League preliminary stage with a 2-0 win over FK Bukhara on Saturday.

The result ended a run of four successive draws for the Tashkent club, and - coupled with FC Bunyodkor’s 2-0 home defeat to AGMK - gave them a six-point lead on their city rivals in the race for second with four rounds of league matches remaining.

At the other end of the table, FC Qizilqum Zarafshon were the only side to make significant inroads in an increasingly unpredictable relegation battle, earning a potentially invaluable 2-1 win on Friday against FC Kokand 1912, who are also candidates for the drop.

Qizilqum fell behind to an early Khamidullo Abdukhamidov goal but replies from Salim Mustafaev and Australian midfielder Steven Luštica helped them secure three points to rise to the temporary safety of 11th, one position ahead of Kokand 1912, who currently occupy the relegation play-off spot.

Champions-elect FC Pakhtakor continued their unbeaten season with a 4-1 win at bottom-placed Dinamo Samarkand, and, with the league title in the bag, their attention now turns to next Saturday’s Cup Final against AGMK.

Kyrgyz Republic: Stars keep Dordoi on track

Returning from far-flung international destinations had no discernible impact on FC Dordoi strike duo Vahyt Orazsahedov and Mirlan Murzaev, who both scored in a 2-0 win over city rivals Alga on Sunday, keeping the defending champions four points clear of challengers FC Alay Osh in the race for the Kyrgyz Premier League title.

Turkmenistan international Orazsahedov’s 16th of the season sent him clear on top of the scoring charts after he returned from a friendly in Kuwait, while Murzaev repeated the dose after scoring in Kyrgyz Republic’s mid-week Asian Qualifiers tie in Mongolia to secure the win for Alexander Krestinin’s side, who still hold a game in hand on Alay.

Alay’s title hopes hinge on Dordoi slipping up more than once in their remaining four matches, but the Southerners’ position could have been even more precarious had it not been for Odilzhon Abdurakhmanov’s late heroics in their Saturday fixture against bottom placed Academy-Leader.

Leader looked like pulling off a major upset at 1-0 up late in the match but Abdurakhmanov scored in the 85th and four minutes into added time for Alay to secure a win which theoretically keeps them in contention for a fifth title in seven years.

With the league intriguingly poised, next weekend’s focus will be on the Kyrgyzstan Cup Final, with Dordoi to face Neftchi Kochkor-Ata in Jalal-Abad on Sunday.

Tajikistan: Khujand close to sealing second as Panjsher go down

FC Khujand were one of the only teams who failed to score on a goal-laden Saturday afternoon in Tajikistan, but they will have the chance to wrap up second place when they face Istaravshan on Thursday.

Vitaly Levchenko’s charges were held to a scoreless draw by CSKA Pamir, for whom Safarali Karimov missed a late penalty, allowing third placed Regar-TadAZ to move to within five points with a 5-2 win over Istaravshan.

Should Khujand earn a similar result during Thursday’s catch-up match against their northern rivals, they will move eight points clear with two rounds remaining to seal the runners-up position for a third straight season.

Meanwhile, bottom placed Panjsher’s 4-2 home defeat to runaway champions FC Istiklol, coupled with Kuktosh’s 2-1 win over Khation confirmed the south-western club’s relegation.

Panjsher started strongly but have collected just 11 points from 19 matches, suffering 14 defeats, including a 9-0 loss to Khujand, on their way down to the second tier.

IR Iran: Persepolis, Foolad shine on Sunday

Only three top-flight matches were held in Islamic Republic of Iran, with Persepolis and Foolad both moving to 12 points after seven matches with important wins on Sunday.

Mehdi Torabi and Ahmad Nourollahi both scored for Persepolis, who survived the late dismissal of Mehdi Abdi to hold on for a 2-1 home win over Paykan, while veteran defender Ayoub Vali netted twice for Foolad in a 3-2 success away to Machine Sazi.

Pars Janoobi Jam and Sanat Naft played out a goalless draw in Sunday’s other match, with the rest of the clubs to return to league action with five matches on Monday.

The meeting between Saipa and Esteghlal stands out as one of the more intriguing options on Monday’s schedule, while league leaders Sepahan and Tractor will each look to continue their early success with respective away matches against Gol Gohar and Nassaji Mazandaran.

Turkmenistan: Frontrunners return with wins

Turkmenistan’s top two sides picked up important wins as the Yokary Liga sprung back to life after two weeks off.

Defending champions FC Altyn Asyr relied on goals from Murat Yakshiyev, Mihail Titov and Selim Atayev to earn a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Ashgabat, while FK Shagadam defeated Nebitchi 2-1 to stay within six points of the holders, who have a game in hand.

The most consequential result of the round came on Sunday, when FC Ahal’s fading title hopes suffered another blow in a 2-1 away defeat to Köpetdag, leaving the AFC Cup regulars 10 points off the pace.


Photos: Dordoi FC, Yokary Liga

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