Ikromjon Alibaev scored the pick of the goals as Lokomotiv Tashkent started their 2018 AFC Champions League campaign in style with a 5-0 win over Al Wahda. The midfielder’s stunning strike from the halfway line was voted the Allianz Goal of the Week, earning 49 percent of the votes.
With his side 1-0 up eight minutes into the second half, Alibaev outmuscled his marker to win the ball at the edge of the centre circle and into Lokomotiv’s own half. The number nine created a perfect 4-v-3 counter-attack situation, but he did not need to use any of his teammates.
In a moment of magic, the midfielder spotted goalkeeper Rashed Ali off his line and went for the spectacular, sending a chipped effort from just behind the halfway line that whistled into the back of the net as the Lokomotiv Stadium erupted.
Alibaev’s goal beat competition from Ahmed Al Hashmi’s volleyed goal for Al Jazira to win the vote for the Allianz AFC Champions League Goal of the Week, but he preferred to focus on the result, humbly insisting he was simply happy to have helped Lokomotiv win.
“For me, it is better to win every game in the season and not score, that’s not a problem. I know if I score I can help the team win games. To be honest, it is not my objective to score a specific amount of goals, I just want to win games,” Alibaev told the-AFC.com.
The wonder strike was followed by a second Alibaev goal in the final minutes of the game, and the 24-year-old credited a role change by coach Andrey Miklyaev for his brace.
“In the new system, I am now playing closer to Mara [Marat Bikmaev], and closer to the goal. So, it has been easier for me to penetrate, make assists and score goals,” explained the defensive midfielder turned attacking midfielder.
Going into their Champions League opener against Al Wahda, the Uzbek champions had the disadvantage of not having played a single competitive fixture since November 2017 as the new Uzbekistan Super League is only scheduled to begin in March, but Lokomotiv showed no rustiness and ran free from start to finish.
An intense pre-season with a lot of physical work is the reason behind the side’s strong start according to Alibaev, who was confident they will continue to do well.
“We did a lot of running, a lot of gym sessions. It really helped that we had worked so hard during pre-season. We won the first match and we will try to go to our best level; you will see that in the results.
“The AFC Champions League is a very difficult competition with many good teams who are capable of reaching the semi-finals and the final, but we have been playing together for many years, and this season can be one to decide our level in comparison to those teams.”