After missing out on the Asian Cup spot last March, Akhtam Nazarov and Tajikistan get a belated payback against the Azkals. PFF photo
MANILA--A win is still a win for Tajikistan after they got a measure of cheap revenge to the Philippines after progressing to the final of the Bangabandhu Gold Cup with a 2-0 win in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Tuesday evening.
Alisher Tukhtaev waited for six painful months to redeem his nation from their painful failure to qualify for next year's Asian Cup, as they struck in both halves to progress to Friday's final at the expense of the Azkals' reserves in a rainy semifinal played out in an atrocious conditions of the pitch.
Anto Gonzales made two changes from Friday's win over the host nation, with Misagh Bahadoran being the only holdover from the Azkals' historic Asian Cup qualifier in Manila almost seven months ago, when then-gaffer Thomas Dooley came from a goal down to snatch their spot away from the Central Asian side.
However, it was Tajikistan who were the aggressor from the opening whistle, as they peppered Louie Casas on with more accurate shots but the original Azkals shot-stopper denied them multiple times.
But everything changed past the half-hour mark, when Komron Tursunov fired an empty-net strike in the 31st minute after being picked out by a Muhammadjon Rahimov header.
Being on the back foot for the first time since March would have struck a nerve on the Azkals, as they tried in vain to get back into the match, with Kenshiro Daniels' missed header as the closest they got for an equalizer.
The semifinal took a strange turn three minutes past the hour mark, when Casas' head was bloodied up after colliding with Rahimov's knee after the latter went free on the counter, causing a 12-minute delay in the process.
However, Tajikistan's Pyrrhic win was sealed in the eighth added minute of stoppage time, when Akhtam Nazarov, who scored from the spot against Neil Etheridge in Rizal Memorial last March, hit the match-winner with his trademark left foot past a bandaged Casas.
Philippines: Casas (GK), Barbaso, Clariño, Aguinaldo, Alquiros, Arboleda (Marvin Angeles 87'), Marwin Angeles, Minegishi, Daniels (Gayoso 65), Bedic, Bahadoran (C) (Guirado 54')
Tajikistan: Rizoev (GK), Asorov, Juraboev, Beknazarov, Tabrezi, Nazarov, Rahimov (Babajanov 70'), Rasulov, Fathuollev (C), Tursunov, Ergashev (Mirzonadzhot 88')
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