Istiklol gains upperhand in Interzonal semis after battering Ceres to a pulp

Manuchekhr Dzahlilov tore the Ceres Negros backline apart, taking over the second half for a 4-0 rout for Istiklol Dushanbe. (AFC photo)
By Kevin Estrada

Philippine football's bad day was complete, when Tajik side Istiklol Dushanbe pummeled Ceres Negros in the first leg of the AFC Cup Interzonal semifinal late Tuesday evening in Hisor, Tajikistan (Wednesday midnight, Manila time).

Last season's double winners and runners-up to the 2015 edition dominated in all aspects of the game, taking a 4-0 win that they bring to Bacolod three weeks from now.

Right off the opening whistle, the home side dominated proceedings and they did not even give the PFL outfit an inch of space with their pressing game as they attack with three men up front, giving Kota Kawase and Carli De Murga fits at the heart of their backline.

Ceres' vaunted attack, in which they scored 23 goals all tournament long, surprisingly became silent in the entire match, with Istiklol's defence only limited them to five shots, all of them from the outside, with only one of them only went on target.

The speed of the Tajik side bore fruit in the 25th minute, as left-back Akhtam Nazarov sends Roland Muller to the opposite direction from the spot after the Japanese centre-half tripped Dmitri Barkov inside the box.

Istiklol could have doubled their lead twelve minutes later when Barkov picked out forward Manuchekhr Dzhalilov, but the latter was caught by the linesman's flag for offside while trying to get another penalty.

Fortunately for their faithful in Hisor, Romish Dzalilov doubled their lead in the first minute of added time, converting Dzhalilov's pass and fired it into the far post.

A staple in the Tajikistan squad, Dzhalilov then took over in the second half with a brace that took the fight of the Busmen to get even somehow to the Filipino side when the Azkals beat them in the Asian Cup qualifier at home last June.

Midway into the restart, the forward fired a rocket to the top left corner that left Muller no chance to secure the first leg.

Dzhalilov put the finishing touches a minute before full time, after Dilshod Vasiev picked him out inside to slot the ball into the bottom left corner.

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