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Eastern Long Lions midfielder Leung Chun-pong (left) gives chase as PFC Sogdiana striker Javokhir Kakhramonov waits to get the ball during the first half of the AFC Cup inter-zone semi-final. Photo: Eastern SC

AFC Cup: late Shakhruz Norkhonov header downs Eastern Long Lions, sends PFC Sogdiana into inter-zone final

  • Hong Kong team’s dogged performance just not enough in Uzbekistan
  • Sogdiana will play either ATK Mohun Bagan or Kuala Lumpur City on October 5

Shakhruz Norkhonov’s late header took PFC Sogdiana into the Inter-Zone Final of the AFC Cup on Tuesday as the side from Uzbekistan handed Hong Kong’s Eastern Long Lions a 1-0 defeat at the Sogdiana Sporting Complex in Jizzakh.

Sogdiana will play either ATK Mohun Bagan or Kuala Lumpur City on October 5 after seeing off Roberto Losada’s dogged side, who were finally unpicked five minutes from time by a telling cross from former Uzbekistan international Vitali Denisov.

Ulugbek Bakaev’s outfit dominated throughout but had been unable to find a way through a well-marshalled Eastern defence that continued to frustrate the home side and had looked set to take the game into extra-time.

Call of the East lured defender Kozubaev to Hong Kong’s AFC Cup cause

Sogdiana controlled the opening exchanges only to struggle to create clear-cut openings despite their dominance. Luka Cermej went closest for Bakaev’s side in the third minute when he screwed his shot well wide.

Eastern had been second best throughout the first quarter of the game and yet almost took the lead in the 24th minute. Leung Kwun-chung’s free-kick from near the left touchline was nodded just off target by Marcos Gondra when the defender found himself unmarked seven yards out.

That was a rare sight of goal for the Hong Kong Premier League side and Losada’s team rode their luck eight minutes before the break to stay level.

Javokhir Kakhramonov’s corner from the right was met by Shokhruz Norkhonov’s powerful header but, with goalkeeper Yapp Hung-fai beaten to his left, the ball thumped back off the inside of the post.

Eastern’s Wu Chun-ming shot straight at Milan Mitrovic before Kakhramonov fizzed his long-range effort over the bar with a minute remaining with Sogdiana continuing to control proceedings without finding a way past the Eastern defence before the interval.

Yapp was forced to paw the ball from under his crossbar after Jasur Khasanov’s free-kick and looked set to continue frustrating Sogdiana until Norkhonov eventually converted.

The goal came when Denisov, on as a 55th minute substitute for Shavkat Salomov, delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right that swung towards goal and Norkhonov rose unmarked to steer his header into the top corner, finally beating Yapp to take Sogdiana through.