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Hisor: Coach Mukhsin Mukhamadiev has spoken of his sorrow that FC Istiklol were unable to bring joy to their fans after the Tajik side suffered a 1-0 defeat to Iraq’s Air Force Club in the AFC Cup final on Saturday.

Istiklol were handed the benefit of playing the one-legged final at home and 20,000 supporters packed out Hisor Central Stadium to create a fabulous atmosphere as their side aimed to make up for the disappointment of losing 1-0 to Johor Darul Ta’zim of Malaysia in the 2015 final.

But it was not to be as Emad Mohsin’s strike midway through the second half, after Air Force Club’s Hammadi Ahmed had earlier missed a penalty, proved the only goal of the game as the holders retained the title they won 12 months ago following victory over India’s JSW Bengaluru.

“It’s a pity we lost the final at home, our second final in the last three seasons, because we wanted to bring happiness to our fans,” said Mukhamadiev.

“We began the match well and created some chances, but our opponents played very well in defence and didn’t allow us shots on goal.

“We lost our concentration in the second half and Air Force Club took advantage of this to score the winning goal of the tournament.”

The defeat proved to be the first of the campaign for Istiklol, who had previously won five from five at home en route to the final.

But the Tajik champions have struggled to find the back of the net against Iraqi opposition in the past, with their only two goals in five meetings with sides from the West Asian country coming courtesy of own goals.

And so it proved again as top scorer Manuchehr Dzhalilov was kept relatively quiet, firing his only real chance of the game over the bar in the first half, as chances were few and far between.

Istiklol had also scored in all 10 of their AFC Cup games prior to the final and went into the match as the tournament’s second highest scorers but, in the end, it was an Air Force Club defence that has now kept seven clean sheets in 11 games that came out on top.

“Air Force Club has experienced players and they proved that tonight.” added Mukhamadiev.

“My team played well but we couldn’t take the last step of our mission. We continued to make attacks [after conceding] and it’s a pity we couldn’t equalise.

“I think we have improved more and more in this tournament. But I congratulate Air Force Club for winning the title.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports

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