Domestic Leagues

Dominant Pakhtakor seal back to back league titles


Tashkent: FC Pakhtakor became Uzbekistan Super League champions for the second consecutive season, and a record extending 13th time overall, after wrapping up the title with three games to spare on Friday.

The 2020 AFC Champions League quarter-finalists defeated Kokand-1912 by a margin of 2-1, but their silverware was secure even before that match kicked off, with second placed FC Nasaf slipping to defeat at the hands of Sogdiana earlier in the afternoon.

Pakhtakor’s title is the second such success for head coach Shota Arveladze; the former Ajax and Glasgow Rangers striker who has transformed the club’s fortunes since arriving mid-way through 2017.

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Having squandered an opportunity to wrap up the race 15 days earlier, the Tashkent side were given a helping hand by Sogdiana, who scored two second-half goals to cruise to a 3-1 win and extinguish Nasaf’s slim mathematical chance of catching the leaders.

The result of Pakhtakor’s later clash was then academic, but they prevailed regardless, defying below zero temperatures to bring up their 19th win in 23 matches, extending an exceptional run of consistency which has seen them lose just three of their last 50 league matches.

Player of the match Doston Khamdanov opened the scoring in the sixth minute, and Dragan Ceran doubled the lead with a 25-yard screamer in the 81st, before Kokand-1912’s Murod Kholmuhammedov pulled a goal back from the penalty spot with five minutes remaining.

With three matches still to play in the Super League campaign, Pakhtakor now hold a 13-point lead over Nasaf, having won the competition by 20 points in 2019.

Speaking after the final whistle a triumphant Arveladze, who himself contracted COVID-19 in September, reflected on a campaign of unprecedented challenges.

“On February 10 we played the AFC Champions League match at Pakhtakor Stadium,” said the Georgian legend.

“There was nothing (wrong) then. The Super League had not started, and there was no situation that is happening now in the world. Nobody thought that this year would be so challenging and difficult.

“I would like to thank everyone who lives and works in Uzbekistan and in our city. Many thanks to (Uzbekistan Football Association) and (Professional Football League, who organised the matches in difficult conditions. Thanks to the management of the club, which did not abandon us for a second, and helped in solving problems."

“I give a standing ovation to each employee of the club. I would also like to mention the fans. Everyone deserves a round of applause. This virus has affected almost all of us. For many of our employees, someone in their family was sick, or they themselves were sick. There are those who have lost loved ones. In such a difficult situation, everyone always tried to fulfil their duties, working hard from morning to evening.

“Thank you all. Despite the difficult time, we won the championship three rounds before the end. We tried to defend the honour not only of the club, but of the whole country in the (AFC) Champions League.”

After beginning as planned in February, the 2020 Uzbekistan Super League season paused for three months between March and June due to the spread of COVID-19, with the majority of fixtures played behind closed doors for the remainder of the season.

Pakhtakor also travelled to Qatar for six AFC Champions League matches during the season, with the club reaching the knockout stage of the Asian showpiece for the first time in a decade.

Photos: Pakhtakor FC

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