AFC : 16 APRIL, 2021, 12:21 PM
Debutants AGMK FC marked their continental debut with a famous 2-2 draw against three-time Asian champions Al Hilal SFC on Matchday One of the 2021 AFC Champions League Group A at Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium on Thursday.
The 2019 AFC Champions League winners started brightly and looked to take the game to their opponents from the start, but within 11 minutes they had fallen behind against the run of play.
A poorly weighted back pass from Mohammed Al Burayk to goalkeeper Abdullah Al Mayouf invited pressure from Zafar Polvonov who stole the ball from Al Hilal’s skipper and slotted into the empty net to hand the Uzbek side a shock lead.
AGMK grew into the game, gaining confidence and momentum following their goal and could have added another halfway through the opening period as Husniddin Gafurov curled an effort from the left side of the penalty box, but his attempt passed narrowly wide of the target.
Al Hilal regrouped and started to pile the pressure in pursuit of the equaliser which they were able to get before the half-hour mark as Luciano Vietto released Al Burayk down the flank and the right-back’s driven low cross from the byline was inadvertently converted into the back of the net by AGMK’s Sardor Rakhmanov.
The Saudi remained shaky at the back and nearly saw their joy cut short after a defensive mistake allowed Sanjar Tursunov to advance down the right and unleash an effort from a tight angle, but Al Mayouf was able to make amends for his earlier error and produced a fine diving save to deny the Uzbeks.
Italian playmaker Vietto turned from creator to scorer nine minutes before the break. Despite a small deflection, Andre Carillo’s cross from the right reached the former Atletico Madrid player and Vietto was left with a simple tap in to make it 2-1 at halftime.
After the restart, AGMK looked the likelier of the two sides to find the back of the net with Polvonov finding space inside the box and connecting with headers in the 47th and 61st minutes but failing to hit the target on both occasions.
Head coach Mirjalol Qosimov’s men finally got their reward in the 70th minute after substitute Sanjar Shaakhmedov pounced on Al Mayouf’s spilled attempt to catch Dilshodbek Akhmadaliev’s cross from the right flank and slotted home the equaliser just eight minutes after his introduction.
Al Hilal looked to restore their lead, and almost did so instantly as midfielder Abdullah Otayf was first to reach a poorly cleared ball and hit on the half volley from 25 yards out but goalkeeper Valijon Rahimov produced a diving save to parry his shot.
AGMK retreated to defend their territory in the remainder of the half and despite the best efforts of Bafetimbi Gomis and co, there would be no further goals on either side as AGMK celebrated a valuable point on their first-ever AFC Champions League group stage appearance.
With all four teams tied on one point, Al Hilal face Shabab Al Ahli Dubai on Sunday while the other Matchday Two fixture in Group A brings together the two debutants AGMK and Istiklol in a central-Asian derby.
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