Ashgabat Football Club overpowered Sri Lanka Army 5-1 in their AFC President’s Cup Group B qualifiers at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
The victors were vastly superior to the Lankan army in physique, technique, stamina and proficiency as validated later by Lankan head coach, Shanmugam Pathmanathan.
Mirzoyev Arif scored two goals for Ashgabat while Amanov Arslanmyrat, Allaberdiyev Ahmed and Urazov Dayanchgylych netted one each. Skipper Priyankara clinched the lone goal for the Army.
Two minutes after kick off Turkmen midfielder Serdar took a freekick from the left side and an unmarked Arif scored his first goal heading the ball past Lankan custodian Ruwan Fernando.
Ashgabat doubled their lead in the 36th minute after dominating possession for most of the first half.
Left-back Rustam took a long throw-in which deflected off a Lankan defender onto Arif who volleyed it in with his left foot to make it 2-0.
Ashgabat took their two-goal advantage into the break and clearly looked a more potent and dominant side.
There was no let-off for the Army after the break.
Five minutes after resumption the hattrick seeking Arif went on a long sprint along the left flank before unselfishly squaring the ball for his strike partner Amanov who chipped it over a hapless Fernando to make it 3-0 on the night.
But just as the Army were looking like crumbling they were hauled back into it by skipper Priyankara who arrived in the opposition box and took a low ball into the far left corner to salvage a consolation for his side.
With the game over as a contest both sides chose to make substitutions. But it hardly made any difference for Ashgabat as super-sub Urazov lobbed in a through pass from Amanov to make it 4-1 for the team from Turkmenistan in the 74th minute.
And the rout was well and truly complete four minutes from the end as Amanov added the final nail in the army coffin scoring with a speculative long rage shot.
Ashgabat head coach Grigoryants Boris was satisfied with his team’s overall performance but remained rather calm and unexcited as he believed the high number of goals still doesn’t confirm his team’s berth in the final round.
“I am satisfied and happy with my team’s performance but it is important that we keep the momentum going and continue to play well in the next match which is a crunch game for us. Although it was hot during the day but by the time the match started it was quite cool and it made the football enjoyable,” said Boris after the match.
His Lankan counterpart Pathmanathan was quick to attribute the victory to the superiority of the Ashgabat team, which he believed, had all the abilities to outplay them and deserved the victory.
“All the Ashgabat players are significantly taller than my players so it was difficult to cope with their long legs and bigger frame. The first two goals was my goalkeeper’s (Fernando) fault but the rest was just brilliant play by them,” said Pathmanathan.
Ashgabat will face Abahani on Saturday at the same venue in the last match of the tournament.