Pakhtakor coach Samvel Babayan believes the Uzbekistan champions can continue their positive start to the year against Saudi Arabia’s Al Shabab in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday.
On their return to the continental competition on Tuesday after a one year absence, Igor Sergeev scored the winner with five minutes remaining at Pakhtakor Stadium as Babayan’s 10 men recorded a 2-1 win over Iran’s Naft Tehran.
And with the new domestic campaign not beginning until next weekend’s season-opening Super Cup against fellow AFC Champions qualifiers and cup winners Lokomotiv, Pakhtakor’s next outing of 2015 sees Babayan’s side travel to Riyadh to face an Al Shabab side who began their continental campaign with a goalless draw in the United Arab Emirates against Al Ain.
“We are not in good form yet because we haven’t yet started our league season and we will need to play more games to get up to speed,” said Pakhtakor coach Samvel Babayan following the win over Naft as 10-time Uzbekistan champions Pakhtakor began their record 12th appearance in the continental competition with a win having failed to qualify for the first time last year.
“I hope we can play better in the next matches.”
Also on Group B on Tuesday, Naft entertain inaugural AFC Champions League winners Al Ain with both sides seeking their first win of the campaign.
Naft had been able to cancel out Kakhi Makharadze’s third minute opener for Pakhtakor on Tuesday as Ali Ghorbani equalised for the visitors following Sherzodbek Karimov’s red card only for Sergeev to net the late winner.
Al Ain enjoyed the better of the chances against Al Shabab, but last season’s AFC Champions League top scorer Asamoah Gyan in particular was unable to find a way past goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah for the 2014 semi-finalists.
Pakhtakor’s domestic rivals Bunyodkor, meanwhile, will look to build on their opening 1-1 draw with Saudi Arabia champions Al Nassr as the two-time semi-finalists entertain Iran’s Persepolis in Group A.
On Tuesday, Mohsen Bengar, Hadi Norozi and Mohammad Noori scored as Persepolis made the ideal start with a 3-0 win over Qatar champions Lekhwiya, who entertain Al Nassr on Matchday Two.
Also on Tuesday in Group F, debutants Guangzhou R&F will look to continue their eye-catching start to the campaign as the Chinese qualifiers entertain Thailand champions Buriram United, while fellow former AFC Champions League winners Seongnam FC and Gamba Osaka complete the second round of fixtures.
Having beaten both Singapore’s Warriors FC and Australia’s Central Coast Mariners in the play-offs to earn a maiden continental campaign, Moroccan striker Abderrazzaq Hamedallah and Wang Song scored as Cosmin Contra’s Guangzhou recorded a 2-0 win over Japanese treble winners Gamba, who won the 2008 AFC Champions League.
Guangzhou currently share top spot in Group F with Buriram, who beat 2010 champions and Korean FA Cup winners Seongnam 2-1 in Thailand.
Finally, K-League Classic champions and 2006 AFC Champions League winners Jeonbuk Motors travel to China to face FA Cup winners Shandong Luneng in Group E, while Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol entertain Vietnam champions Binh Duong.
CAPTION – Pakhtakor travel to Saudi Arabia to face Al Shabab in the AFC Champions League on Tuesday after the Uzbekistan champions began their campaign with a 2-1 win over Iran’s Neft Tehran.