Domestic Leagues

Central Asian Domestic Wrap: Persepolis hit the ground running, Istiklol seal key win


Bishkek: Domestic football resumed in Islamic Republic of Iran, with Persepolis picking up precisely where they had left off before the league was suspended, while Istiklol beat Khujand in a crucial match in Tajikistan.

In Uzbekistan, AGMK continued their efficient accumulation of points to remain unbeaten, while Lokomotiv suffered a third loss in a row.

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IR Iran: Persepolis close in on title after long lay-off

Even four months without a league match couldn’t slow down Persepolis’ seemingly inexorable charge towards a fourth consecutive Iran Pro League title, as the Tehran giants returned to action with a 3-1 win away to Paykan on Sunday.

That result ended a week which saw the long-awaited resumption of the league, which had been halted with nine rounds remaining in late February.

Two goals from youngster Mehdi Abdi followed an early opener from Ali Alipour, with a late penalty from Shahriar Moghanlou providing nothing more than consolation for Paykan.

Further strengthening Persepolis’ position was FC Tractor’s disappointing 1-0 loss at home to Nassaji Mazandaran, although Sepahan’s 2-0 win against Gol Gohar meant the gap between the league leaders and the chasing pack remains at 10 points.

While one of Tehran’s big two appears destined to claim the title, their great rivals Esteghlal endured a difficult return to competitive action, losing 2-1 to Foolad Khuzestan in the league’s official return last Wednesday, then playing out a 1-1 home draw against Saipa on Monday.


Tajikistan: Istiklol prevail in Tajikistan’s clash of the titans

FC Istiklol took a major step towards yet another league title, beating the club considered their most likely challengers, Khujand, 3-1 on Sunday.

Playing as the away team - and finding themselves a goal down inside three minutes when Sanjar Rikhsiboev opened the scoring for Nikola Lazaervić’s side – Istiklol levelled through star man Manuchehr Dzhalilov in the 16th minute, before a long range Alisher Dzhalilov goal put them ahead with just under 15 minutes remaining in the match.

Khujand endured a Manuchehr Safarov red card, before Turkmenistan international Vahyt Oraszahedov put the icing on the cake for Istklol with an injury time sealer.

Oraszahedov’s goal was his third in as many matches, but even his run of form can’t compete with Manuchehr Dzhalilov’s golden campaign thus far. The Tajikistan national team scoring record-holder has bagged nine goals in seven league matches, taking his overall tally to 12 in all competitions.

Khujand’s defeat saw them drop to third, with Khatlon – who sit five points adrift of Istiklol – returning to second place.


Uzbekistan: AGMK emerge as potential challengers

Pakhtakor remain Uzbekistan’s top club outfit, but AGMK appear increasingly likely to be their Super League challengers, with Mirdjalol Kasimov’s side still undefeated after six matches.

The Almalyk club may have only scored seven goals in six matches, but Saturday’s 1-0 win over Mashal means they are only a single point behind defending champions Pakhtakor, who won 2-0 away at Qizilqum.

AGMK’s status as emerging challengers comes at a time when Pakhtakor’s expected title rivals PFC Lokomotiv slipped to a third consecutive loss, this time falling to a 2-0 loss to Bunyodkor.

Turkmen forward Selim Nurmuradov opened the scoring in the 19th minute, with Shakhboz Erkinov sealing the points for Vadim Abramov’s side with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Also worthy of inclusion in this week’s wrap is the stunning strike provided by Farhod Bekmurodov. The Andijon man scored one of the goals of the season, lashing home a 35-yeard rocket to give his side an injury time equaliser against in-form Sogdiana.

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Photos: FC Khujand

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