Sharjah: A fine display of attacking football saw Pakhtakor and Tractor FC play an exciting 3-3 draw at Sharjah Stadium in the AFC 2021 Champions League Group B opener on Wednesday.
After a shy start to the match on both sides, it was Pakhtakor who took the initiative in the quarter hour as Dragan Ceran advanced to the middle and provided a nice pass to Erin Derdiok who shot low from inside the area, but Tractor goalkeeper Mohammadreza Akhbari made a quick save with his feet at the near post.
The Uzbek side believed they had broken the deadlock 10 minutes from time when Azizbek Turgunboev whipped a ball into the box with a free kick and Ceran’s imposing header looked destined for the back of the net before Akhbari showed up. with superb athleticism to make a dive stop, tipping it behind for a corner.
The tractor ran out of the blocks after the restart and within seven minutes they received a penalty after defender Anzur Ismailov handled the ball inside the box. Veteran Ashkan Dejagah stepped in and sent goalkeeper Sanjar Kuvvatov the wrong way, scoring the equalizer.
Coach Rasoul Khatibi’s men wereted no time in doubling their total. Akbar Imani took advantage of a defensive error and sent Mohammad Abbaszadeh on goal, who threw his shot into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 at 56 minutes.
Pakhtakor came a hair’s breadth away from finding the back of the net after Farrukh Sayfiev beat the goalkeeper with a calm left-footed finish, but as the Uzbeks prepared to celebrate, defender Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh appeared with a clearance of the goal line to deny them the goal.
Coach Pieter Huistra’s men scored their first goal of the night after Ceran recovered Hojimat Erkinov’s pass and left Akhbari away to reduce the deficit in the 69th minute.
Substitute Ibrokhimkhalil Yuldoshev had a chance to equalize after the Tractor goalkeeper reversed his attempt to catch a cross, but the left-back half-volley attempt from inside the box sailed large.
Pakhtakor equalized with 15 minutes left after Sharof Mukhitdinov received a pass from Sayfiev from the right, twisted and turned before unleashing a thunderous left-footed strike that nestled in the tractor net.
The Uzbeks had not yet finished. Substitute Erkinov jumped on a bad defensive clearance and went into a solo run, beating three defenders before placing the ball in front of the opposing goalkeeper to make it 3-2.
Just as Pakhtakor thought he was done with his mission, Abbaszadeh cleared the goal, leaving defender Egor Krimets with no choice but to knock him down into the box. Abbaszadeh stepped in to take the resulting penalty and made no mistakes, kicking off 3-3 with five minutes left.
Pakhtakor takes on the Iraqi Air Force club on Saturday while Tractor takes on Sharjah FC in their next match.