Final match for the second important Asian football trophy was held between the Champion of Turkmenistan for the last four years Altyn Asyr and existing owner of the AFC Cup Iraqi Club Al Kuva from Basra.
Both teams have deserved the right to play in the final. On the way to the final, Al Kuva was qualified from the group tournament where Al Jazeers (Jordan), Malkia (Bahrein) and Al Suvaik (Oman0 played. After, it won Lebanese Al Ahed by the result of two matches (3:1 at home and 2:2 out) in zone semi-final of Western Asia. In the final, the club took over two times against Joran Al Jazeera (1:0 in Amman and 3:1 in Iraqi Kerbela).
Current champion of Turkmenistan had also difficult way to the final. First, Altyn Asyr has won zone Central Asian tournament in D group where two times finalists of the AFC Cup in 2015 and 2017, six time champion of Tajikistan Istklol from Dushanbe, strongest club from Kyrgyzstan Alay from Osh and vice-champion the winner of Turkmenistan Cup Ahal were playing. After, the team of Yazkuli Hojageldiyev won Indian Bengaluru (3:2 in Bangalore and 2:0 in Ashgabat) in Inter-zone final and after, it was better by the results of two matches in the final of Inter-zone contest against April 25 from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The first match was held in Pyongyang and resulted in 2:2 draw. Return match was held in Ashgabat and opponents did not detect the winner. The result was 1:1, however, Altyn Asyr was qualified for the final by the greater number of goals scored at the opponent's field.
Entire Turkmenistan led by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov stands behind the success of our team at 2018 AFC Cup, - Head Coach of Altyn Asyr Yazkuli Hojageldiyev said at the pre-game press conference. � Every player wants to come back home with the victory. We have already entered the history of national football, having been qualified to the final as previously Turkmen clubs have never been qualified from the group.
The coach of champions of Turkmenistan has also added that players of Altyn Asyr are wiling to rewrite the history and to win in the final.
His Iraqi vis-A�-vis Basim Kasim was also very ambitious, having said that his club would not miss the opportunity to make the first hat trick in the history of the tournament, especially when the final match is held in their own land.
Al Kuva has come to the final of 2018 AFC Cup after four wining matches in a row in Iraq Premier League, which according to the Head Coach of the club indicate good shape of his team. Altyn Asyr is strong opponent. However, we are motivated to win the AFC Cup third time and I believe that my team will make it, - Head Coach of Al Kuva B. Kasim said.
Coached by B. Kasim Iraqi Club has won the last two finals of the AFC Cup. It took over Indian Bengaluru 1:0 in 2016 and Tajik Istiklol 1:0 in 2017, which Altyn Asyr also won in current tournament. Therefore, coming match was raising increased interest of football fans.
Analysing the teams before the final, many sport observers noted that the team are not in equal conditions. By the decision of the Asian Football Confederation, the final match was held in Irq with the support of Al Kuva fans. In this difficult situation for our sportsmen, many things depended on how fast they would be able to recover from starting anxiety.
The hosts put forward tough game to the guests from the first minutes. They have boldly engaged in the game and shortly, rained the storm of attacks on the goals of the opponent. The first dangerous moment at Altyn Asyr goals came on the 5th minute when defender Zafar Babadjanov received powerful kick. Irqi players started requesting the referee for the penalty trying t convince him that the defender has played with his hand. However, the FIFA referee from Qatar was adamant in his decision.
On the 10th minute, Turkmen players tried to organize the first attack but in the last moment, Vahit Orazsakhedov could not manage the ball well and lost the moment. After five minutes, captain of Al Kuva Hammadi Ahmad received the pass from the right flank and had real opportunity to score the goal. But the ball hit from approximately 11 meters was caught by the goalkeeper. There was another shot on goal after 3 minutes but the ball went over the goal.
It seemed that having resisted starting and serious onslaught of the opponent, the champion of Turkmenistan would equalize the game. However, at the 22nd second defender Mekan Saparov in absolutely inoffensive situation missed the ball and Hammadi Ahmad, having appeared face to face with the goalkeeper, easily sent it the goal. Ridiculous goal has broken our players so badly that until the end of the first half they have not disturb the goals of the opponents.
However, in the second half the game of Altyn Asyr has changed significantly, first of all, by active attacking play of the best scorer among Turkmen players in the AFC Cup Altymurad Annadurdiyev. On the 50th minutes, he sent the ball straight into the near top corner and only the skill of the goalkeeper who bounced the ball to corner did not allow the guest scoring the goal.
It seemed that the players of Honoured Coach of Turkmenistan Yazkuli Hojageldiyev were about to come closer to the opponent, however, the situation at the field has changed unexpectedly shortly. On the 57th minute, Ibrahim Baesh won the air duel against our defender and headed the ball to the near corner of the goals after right corner. All Kuva was winning 2:0.
The fortune gave another chance to Altyn Asyr to change the course of the match. On the 65th minute, the referee gives penalty to the goals of the host for playing hands but Selim Nurmuradov hit the penalty over the goals.
Even after this bad luck, Turkmen players continued attacking. They used to tackle every ball trying to change the course of the match. The end of the match went under permanent attacks of the Champion of Turkmenistan but they were not able to change the score.
Despite the loss in the main final of 2018 AFC Cup, Altyn Asyr gave many pleasant emotions to the fans by its game and made the specialists in many countries speak about growing level of Turkmen football, as previously, Turkmen clubs were not able to qualify from the group and today, they were playing for the main football trophy of Asia. After the final match, the players of Altyn Asyr were presented with silver medals of 2018 AFC Cup at the award ceremony. For the very first time in the history of Turkmen football!
Source: Turkmenistan: the Golden Age Online Newspaper