Hisor: Manuchehr Dzhalilov has been named the 2017 AFC Cup Most Valuable Player after the FC Istiklol striker’s seven goals helped the Tajik side progress to a second final in three years.
Dzhalilov went into Saturday’s showpiece event with holders Air Force Club as Istiklol’s main threat in front of goal, but was unable to add to his tally as the visitors eventually ran out 1-0 winners.
The striker’s biggest chance fell towards the end of the first half when he fired over from 12 yards, but failure to find the back of the net against the tournament’s strongest defence cannot take the gloss off what has been a superb AFC Cup campaign for Dzhalilov.
It wasn’t until the fourth game of the competition that Dzhalilov found his scoring boots, when he bagged a brace in a 4-1 victory at the Kyrgyz Republic’s FC Alay.
The forward then scored a hat-trick on his return to the Kyrgyz Republic two weeks later as Istiklol saw off Dordoi FC 5-1.
After progressing to the Inter-Zone semi-finals as Group D winners, next up for the Central Asia Zonal champions were Ceres Negros of the Philippines.
Dzhalilov scored his best goal of the campaign in the first leg in Hisor as he rocketed in an effort from more than 20 yards out to make it 3-0, before adding his second late on in a 4-0 victory.
That goal proved to be the number 63’s last of the tournament although he did also tee up Dmitri Barkov for Istiklol’s crucial second in the 2-2 Inter-Zone final draw with India’s JSW Bengaluru as the Tajik champions advanced to a second final in three years following a 3-2 aggregate win.
The 2017 AFC Cup campaign would end in heartbreak for Dzhalilov, though, as Istiklol suffered their first defeat of the competition after Air Force Club’s second successive 1-0 victory in the final.
Emad Mohsin, meanwhile, was named Man of the Match after the striker scored the game’s decisive goal midway through the second half.
Captain Hammadi Ahmed teed up Mohsin after a delivery from Sameh Saeed from the right and the forward lashed the ball home for the only goal of the match.
The strike was Mohsin’s third of the campaign after winners against Bahrain’s Al Hidd in the group stage and, even more importantly, domestic rivals Al Zawraa in the second leg of the West Asia Zone semi-final.
Photo: Lagardère Sports