In the inter-zonal play-off semi-final in Tashkent on Wednesday, ATK Mohun Bagan’s AFC Cup journey came to an end after middle-tier Uzbekistan team FC Nasaf thrashed the green and maroon army 6-0.
Situation Before the Game
ATK Mohun Bagan:
They had to fly through Dubai to qualify for the Inter-Zone Final against Lee Man FC of Hong Kong next month, and they haven’t played in a domestic league since March, with three AFC Cup group stage matches in August being their only competitive activity in almost six months. Despite the lack of competitive practice matches, Antonio Lopez Habas’ team is hoping to compensate with talent and ambition.
Roy Krishna and David Williams, the team’s top attacking combo, have traveled after combining for three of the team’s six goals in the group stage, while goalkeeper Amrinder Singh will look to improve on a promising start at ATK Mohun Bagan.
At the very least, fans of the Kolkata-based side will be hoping for a better result than the last Indian team to visit Karshi for an AFC Cup match, Dempo, who was defeated 9-0 in the group stage back in 2011.
Nasaf is physically fit, focused, and in excellent physical condition. The fact that RuzikulBerdiev’s roster has remained unchanged since winning the Central Asian Zonal Final last month demonstrates the club’s established nature in seeking the trophy a decade after winning it in 2011.
Outside of Uzbekistan, the Serbian duo of Marko Stanojevic and Andrija Kaluerovic — both goal scorers against Ahal — may be well known, but Nasaf’s strength lies in their deep pool of young local talent, with KhusniddinAlikulov, KhusayinNorachaev, SherzodNasruallev,and Akmal Mozgovoyall under 25, and all influential in the competition so far.
Berdiev’s team has been virtually unstoppable in Asia this season, averaging 67 percent possession and 21 shots on goal per game in four games and scoring multiple goals in each.
Nasaf jumped up to an early lead in the fourth minute, and ATKMB never recovered as the Uzbekistan side ran riot. Nasaf took the lead after Pritam Kotal scored his own goal in the fourth minute before Husain Norchayev scored a hat-trick to further humiliate the three-time ISL champions.
In the 18th minute, Norchayev increased Nasaf’s advantage before adding his tally three minutes later in the 21st minute. Nasaf led 4-0 after the 19-year-old scored his third goal 10 minutes later. Nasaf headed into the halftime break with an unassailable five-goal advantage after OybekBozorov scored on the half-time whistle.
After the game resumed after the half-time break, only one goal was scored, with DonierNarzullaev adding to Nasaf’s tally on 71 minutes. Meanwhile, ATKMB was unable to score a single shot on target on a disappointing night for them, as they were thrashed by a blowout, ending their AFC Cup career in 2021.