Early strike pushes Muharraq Club to AFC Cup win over FC Nasaf

November 8 – Bahrain’s Muharraq Club defeated Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf 3-0 on home soil to win the AFC Cup for a second time. 

In 2020, the AFC was forced to abandon the competition because of the global health crisis but this season, after multiple re-arrangements, the AFC Cup did reach its climax with the final in Manama, Bahrain.

The hosts had a dream start with Mahmoud Al Mardi, as early as the second minute, delivered a sumptuous strike from the left channel to surprise goalkeeper Umidjon Ergashev, 1-0.

Nasaf regained a foothold and Sukhrob Nurulloev struck the woodwork, but it was always going to be an uphill struggle against a team with a spotless defensive record in the knockout phase of the competition.

“In the first half we conceded the first goal so quickly that we were practically starting the match a goal down, then we went on the attack and they defended well, but after the second goal, things became a bit difficult for us,” said Nasaf coach Ruzikul Berdiev.

In the last 15 minutes, Muharraq built on their lead to secure their second AFC Cup, having won the tournament in 2008. Substitute Hussein Jameel was on the end of a wonderful pass from Noor Al Rawabdeh to double the lead before Brazilian striker Flavio completed the win with a delicate chip.

Muharraq’s Abdulwahab Al Malood was named the 2021 AFC Cup Most Valuable Player. He said: “We studied their strengths and weaknesses, but they did too, during the match things changed constantly and they did after we scored so early. We were waiting for them to give us spaces and we took advantage when they did.”

As winners of the AFC Cup, the Bahraini club have qualified for the 2022 AFC Champions League 2022.

Congratulating the two finalists, and Muharraq Club in particular “for their incredible consistency and steadfast perseverance”, AFC president Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa also reflected on the triumph of bringing this competition to conclusion with the multiple pandemic issues it had faced.

“Slowly but surely, football is recovering from the pandemic, and it is wonderful to see the AFC’s competitions including the AFC Cup return to action in 2021,” said Shaikh Salman.

“Looking back at the considerable challenges throughout the year and tough but necessary decisions we needed to make in 2020, we have shown incredible resolve to complete the AFC Cup in 2021.

“I must express my sincere appreciation to all our Member Associations, the numerous centralised hosts, the participating clubs, our passionate fans, the medical professionals and our broadcast and commercial partners and all our stakeholders.”

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1638373027labto1638373027ofdlr1638373027owedi1638373027sni@i1638373027tnuk.1638373027ardni1638373027mas1638373027

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