The 2019 AFC Champions League Group Stage got underway with a 2-0 victory for PFC Lokomotiv of Uzbekistan over UAE’s Al Wahda in Group B on Monday.
The two sides had met in the opening match of Group B last season at the same ground with the home side running riot in a 5-0 victory.
There were ghosts of 2018 for Al Wahda as Temorkhuja Abdukholikov fired PFC Lokomotiv in front just five minutes into the match.
Sardor Mirzayev’s in-swinging corner kick was headed across the mouth of goal by Anzur Ismailov. Abdukholikov met the loose ball with a header from point-blank but was denied by the crossbar. The Number 11 was afforded a second chance to nod the ball into an empty net from the rebound, handing the hosts an early lead.
The visitors shook off the early hiccup and grew into the game. Skipper Sebastian Tagliabue came within a whisker of equalising in the 10th minute.
The Argentine used his strength to see off his marker and control Mohammed Al Shamsi’s long pass, before turning and striking on the half-volley from 35 yards out. Goalkeeper Javohir Ilyosov passed his first test of the afternoon, tipping the ball behind for a corner kick.
Lokomotiv had to settle for the one-goal advantage heading into the break after Diyorjon Turapov hit the post with a left-footed effort from the edge of the box after a neat Mirzayev pull back.
Henk ten Cate’s men took the game to their opponents in the second half, but they did not have the accuracy to match their intensity.
Leonardo da Souza threatened from 30 yards out, but his curled effort from a free-kick narrowly missed the target 11 minutes after the restart.
The Brazilian tried his luck again from a narrower angle but was not any luckier in the 75th minute.
Tagliabue found space in the Lokomotiv box minutes later, evading his marker and going through on goal. The Argentine’s stabbed effort, however, ended on the wrong side of the upright.
Turkmenistan international Arslanmurat Amanov was introduced for his AFC Champions League debut 10 minutes from time and nearly delivered an assist with his first touch.
Lokomotiv’s new signing curled in a corner that was met by Abdukholikov's effort and made things awkward for goalkeeper Al Shamsi, who was eventually relieved to see it go behind for a goal kick.
The hosts were made to wait until the dying seconds of the game to get their second. It was captain Islom Tukhtakhujaev who eventually got it, curling in a free-kick into the top corner to seal victory for the Uzbek side in added time.
Lokomotiv will travel to Qatar to face Al Rayyan next week, while Al Wahda are at home to Saudi Arabia’s Al Ittihad on Matchday Two.