Pakhtakor (UZB) 2-1 Shabab Al Ahli Dubai (UAE)

Tashkent: Goals from Jaloliddin Masharipov and Dragan Ceran helped Uzbekistan's Pakhtakor get their 2020 AFC Champions League Group B campaign off to a winning start with a 2-1 home victory over Shabab Al Ahli Dubai of the United Arab Emirates in a muddy Pakhtakor Stadium on Monday.

The hosts came into their first encounter against Shabab Al Ahli Dubai hoping to extend their six-match unbeaten home run in the competition.

The first goal of the 2020 AFC Champions League group stage was signed by Jaloliddin Masharipov.

The Uzbek international advanced down the middle and spotted goalkeeper Majed Nasser off his line. He instinctively went for the lob and the Shabab Al Ahli skipper was left flatfooted as the ball nestled into the back of the net announcing a Pakhtakor lead after 18 minutes.

Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s men looked for an instant response and almost got what they wanted when Spanish forward Pedro Conde got on the end of a swift counter attack and curled his shot from the edge of the box, but goalkeeper Eldorbek Suyunov was alert to the danger and made the save.

Conde got his first goal in Shabab Al Ahli colours to bring the visitors level in the 67th minute.

It was veteran defender Youssef Jaber who went for the spectacular, meeting a loose ball inside the box with a bicycle kick. Jaber’s effort was parried by Suyunov, but only as far as Conde who tapped in from point-blank range into the back of the net to restore parity.

The Emiratis’ joy lasted a mere three minutes before Ceran cut it short. A Dostonbek Khamdamov cross from the right was met first time by the Serbian whose low effort crept past Nasser into the bottom corner in the 70th minute to win the tie for Pakhtakor.

Despite several attempts in the remaining 20 minutes, most notably from Ahmed Khalil on two different occasions and in the final minute through youngster Hareb Abdalla, Shabab Al Ahli were unable to equalise again and it was the hosts who walked away with the three points.

Shabab Al Ahli host reigning champions Al Hilal next week, while Pakhtakor remain in Tashkent for their Matchday Two encounter against Shahr Khodro FC.

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