Ceran lauds ‘history making’ Pakhtakor after AFC Champions League win over Esteghlal

It was Esteghlal who took the lead at Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday courtesy of a well-taken Ali Karimi free-kick half an hour into the game. Ceran’s diving header equalised for Pakhtakor before the break and Derdiyok sealed the win with a half-volleyed strike shortly after the restart.

Pakhtakor had scored just two goals in four group stage games since the resumption of the 2020 AFC Champions League in Qatar, with Derdiyok only scoring in the annulled 2-1 defeat to Al Hilal on Matchday Three, while Ceran’s last goal prior to Saturday dates to February, when he scored in the 2-1 opening matchday win over Shabab Al Ahli.

“It is good for both me and Erin to score as strikers to score today,” said 32-year-old Ceran, who was named Man of The Match.

“There was a little bit of pressure on me since I did not score for four games but in the AFC Champions League, the focus is just on winning. It does not matter who scores as long as we win."

“We have been together at this club for three years and we made history. This is history for us. We should be satisfied and happy because we did something good for the club and for football in Uzbekistan.

"We controlled the game since the first minute and created many chances. Even when we were a goal down, we showed character and spirit to come back into the game," said Ceran.

Esteghlal’s AFC Champions League journey ended at the Round of 16 for the fourth time in their history. The Iranians gave away their early lead and were unable to get back into the game with attacking pair Cheick Diabate and Mehdi Ghaedi failing to finish several late chances.

“Our team and my players deserved to be in the quarter-finals, but I have to congratulate Pakhtakor for their win,” said Esteghlal head coach Majid Namjoo-Motlagh.

Cheick Diabate-Esteghlal

“We have a good team and we worked really hard, but football is like this sometimes. When there is a lot of pressure and you have put a lot of physical effort throughout the game, you lose concentration, and that is what happened to Diabate. In normal situations he would easily score those chances, but he was tired.

“It was a great physical game, we had some limitations and injured players who we could not utilise and had to make some changes because some players were tired. I am happy with all my players performance and I know they fought hard and did their best from start to finish.”

The Round of 16 continues with two matches at Education City Stadium on Sunday; Persepolis FC play Al Sadd SC and Saudi pair Al Nassr and Al Taawoun go head to head.

The draw for the quarter-finals will be conducted on Monday, with Saudi Arabia's Al Ahli Saudi FC the other team to have advanced after defeating UAE's Shabab Al Ahli Dubai on Saturday.

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