Great Grounds of Asia: Tashkent's Pakhtakor Stadium
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As we countdown to the conclusion of the Great Grounds of Asia series, allow us to present our penultimate venue - Tashkent’s Pakhtakor Stadium.
The first venue profiled from Uzbekistan, Pakhtakor Stadium has hosted a series of crucial matches in Asian football history and traces its roots back over 60 years.
Important AFC youth team tournaments, historic continental club clashes and memorable national team fixtures have all been held at the ground in the centre of Uzbekistan’s capital – a worthy addition to our series.
Pakhtakor Stadium is located in the heart of Tashkent on the edge of a picturesque park, with its distinctive blue and yellow seats – the colours of home side Pakhtakor.
Renovations in 2008 upgraded all the seats from wood to plastic, while new changing rooms and a VIP area were added along with a new giant screen.
While the venue is also used by the Uzbekistan national team as well as other Uzbek League sides, the ground notably rose to continental club tournament prominence on April 9, 2013.
After just seven seconds following the kick-off of the group stage tie between Pakhtakor and Lekhwiya, the visitors’ striker Sebastian Soria ensured the stadium’s place in the record books as he scored the fastest goal in AFC Champions League history.
Pakhtakor Stadium was built in 1956 coinciding with the establishment of Uzbekistan club side Pakhtakor.
After the residents of Tashkent helped build the stadium, Pakhtakor played their first match at their 56,000-capacity new home on August 20.
The club continued to use the venue throughout their 22 seasons in the Soviet League and into the current Uzbek League.
Pakhtakor Stadium, which now has a capacity of 34,000, hosted the finals of the AFC U-16 Championship in 2008 and 2010 as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup play-off between Uzbekistan and Jordan.
A Match to Remember
Although perhaps not remembered too fondly by fans of the Uzbekistan national team, the 2013 FIFA World Qualifiers fifth round play-off second leg between the White Wolves and visitors Jordan must go down as among the most memorable continental games played in Central Asia.
Having drawn 1-1 in the first leg in Amman, Anzur Ismailov opened the scoring for the hosts after just five minutes only to see Saeed Murjan level proceedings two minutes before the break with a fine strike from range.
With neither side able to make further dents in the score line after 120 minutes’ play, the tie went to a penalty shoot-out to see Asia’s representative in the AFC – CONMEBOL play-off for a place in Brazil 2014.
Odil Ahmedov failed to convert from the spot before Ahmad Hayel, Jordan’s fifth selected penalty-taker, did likewise and the shootout continued until Uzbekistan’s tenth penalty taker on the night, Ismailov – earlier the team’s hero – saw his kick saved by ‘keeper Amer Shafi and their World Cup dreams ended.