Analysis: Pakhtakor transfer domestic dominance to ACL

Pakhtakor have lost just once in the last 26 competitive ties and Monday's 3-0 win over Islamic Republic of Iran's Shahr Khodro was another example of just why Shota Arveladze's side have been in such fine fettle.

Marvelous Masharipov

In last year's AFC Champions League, Pakhtakor's left-sided forward Jaloliddin Masharipov was one of the most dynamic players on show during the group stage. Indeed, such was his impact that he completed more dribbles (36) than any other player in the entire competition, despite playing just six matches.

His influence on the side has, if anything, increased with the Uzbekistan champions even more focused on using Masharipov's flank to focus their attacks. Aided and abetted by rampaging full-back Farrukh Sayfiev, Masharipov has already completed a tournament-leading 12 dribbles and 25 duels won.

Against their Iranian visitors on Monday, Pakhtakor's top five passing combinations all came down the left side, while the most common combination saw Sayfiev finding Masharipov to start yet another attack.

This is by no means an anomaly with four of the five top passing combinations also coming down the left in Pakhtakor's Matchday One tie against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai. Against Shahr Khodro, much like Shabab Al Ahli Dubai, over 43% of Pakhtakor's attacks came down Masharipov's wing and it bore real fruit: the 26-year-old assisted two of Pakhtakor's three goals.


Sergeev's home comforts

Forward Igor Sergeev was for many years thought to be among the best young attacking talents in Asia but a big move to Beijing FC in China PR failed to work out, nor did a brief spell at Emirati side Al Dhafra.

The return to Pakhtakor, though, has rekindled the forward's prolific form in front of goal with the 2019 season proving to be his best return since 2015, scoring 18 times in 23 Uzbekistan Super League appearances. His two goals on Monday were a reminder to Asia that his struggles in China and the UAE were a blip in his ability on the Continental stage.

The spearhead in front of a highly effective three of Masharipov, Dragan Ceran and Dostonbek Khamdamov, Sergeev proved himself an effective outlet ensuring he was in the right place at the right time to finish off two well-worked moves.

At the 2016 AFC Champions League, Sergeev netted five times in six appearances, and he has already matched his tally from 2019. Should he keep this run of goals going, Pakhtakor could go deep in this year's competition.


Shahr Khodro fire blanks again

After 180 minutes of Continental football, still the Iranian debutants await their first-ever AFC Champions League goal. It was not for want of trying on Monday, with 10 shots, seven of which were inside the penalty box.

Indeed, the visitors actually edged the possession stats in Tashkent with 53% of the ball, but when they got into the attacking areas their efforts failed to bear fruit.

Veteran striker Mohammad Ghazi proved to be the most prolifigate against Pakhtakor with four shots on goal, but just one hitting the target, although this was double any of his other teammates with Amin Ghaseminejad next highest with two efforts.

However, looking at the Mashhad side's form on the domestic level, the struggles in front of goal become even more acute. In all competitions, Shahr Khodro have scored just 15 goals in the last 23 matches, a dismal number that is, in fact, inflated by a rare 3-1 win, over Machine Sazi, at the beginning of the month.

With four matches remaining, there is plenty of time for the side to break their Continental duck but statistics show that there has never been a team to go goalless in the AFC Champions League group stage. The Iranians will be keen to avoid becoming the first.

 

The-AFC.com

 

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