Nine rounds into the Tajikistan Higher League, we take a look at the state of play.
Winning four games by at least a five-goal margin, Istiklol’s unbeaten run has seen them tighten their grip at the top. CSKA have overturned a rocky start; finding their feet in gameweek five, and top-tier newcomers Dushanbe-83 have exceeded expectations and sit mid-table. Istiklol’s Dzhalilov brothers have dominated the scoring; Manuchekhr on 10 and Alisher on 8.
27th-28th June 2020 Tajikistan Higher League Gameweek 7
Khujand 1-3 Istiklol
(Rikhsiboev 3; M. Dzhalilov, A. Dzhalilov 77, Orazsähedow 90+1)
Manuchekhr Dzhalilov bundled in from a corner to cancel out Sanjar Rikhsiboev’s unexpected third-minute opener. Istiklol eventually gained control of the tie on 77 minutes, when Alisher Dzhalilov’s floated cross-cum-shot deceived the Khujand custodian to give Istiklol the lead. There was no let up for the hosts as the Lions continued to attack, Wahyt Orazsähedow driving into the bottom corner in injury time to remain at the league’s pinnacle.
Regar-TadAZ 1-2 Dunshanbe-83
(Ruziev 88 og; Jones, 45 + 1, Aminu 69)
With a minute of first-half stoppage time remaining, Agbley Jones fired home as the Regar defence were suckered in by Elchibek Rashidbekov’s enterprising run. Idris Aminu doubled for Dushanbe, striking low to cap a storming run from deep. Despite a late slip up when Izatullo Ruziev turned into his own net, Dushanbe-83 held on to claim their second consecutive win.
20th-21st June 2020 Tajikistan Higher League Gameweek 6
Istiklol 8-0 Istaravshan
(Boboev 14, Larin 16, A. Dzhalilov 50 90, Soirov 77, Orazsähedow 78, M. Dzhalilov 85, Panshanbe 88)
Torn apart by Istiklol, Istaravshan’s woes deepen
As Istaravshan failed to clear their lines, Sherriddin Boboev finished off Iskandar Dzhalilov’s marauding run from the right, guiding in with the outside of his boot inside 14 minutes. Ukainian Oleksiy Larin doubled Istiklol’s lead minutes later, bending in directly from a corner. Larin pounced as the visitors attempted to play out from the back, intercepting a wayward pass to tee up Alisher Dzhalilov who struck first time to make it 3-0. Rustam Soirov capped off a slick Istiklol combination to claim their fourth, and Wahyt Orazsähedow turned in number five. There was no let up for Istaravshan, as Manuchekhr Dzhalilov slotted in from a tight angle, Ehson Panjshanbe curled in from distance and A. Dzhalilov thumped in his second to round off a resounding victory.
Lokomotiv Pamir 1-2 Regar-TadAZ
(Khasanov 79; Akhemdov 2, Ergashev 6)
Loko’s losing streak continues
Yokubjon Akhmedov rose highest to glance in Regar’s opener inside two minutes. Dorobjon Ergashev made it 2-0 on six minutes, allowed to connect with an inswinging corner unmarked. Hakin Khasanov sparked Loko’s resurgence, lifting over the keeper in the 79th minute, but it was too little too late for the hosts.
Ehson Panjshanbe gave the visitors a 28th-minute lead, intercepting a sloppy clearance with his chest, hooking it onto his right and firing home. Doubling the deficit, Fatkhullo Boboev arrived in the hosts’ penalty area unmarked to routinely slot into the bottom corner inside 36 minutes.
It took until the second half for the hosts to strike back, Oyatullo Safarov’s looping delivery deceiving the Lions’ keeper to nestle into the back of the net on the hour mark. Their hope of recovery wasn’t long lived, however, as Ehson Panjshanbem picked out the Istiklol skipper Alisher Dhzalilov, who steered in from close range one minute later.
Turkmenistan striker Wahyt Orazsähedow hit Istiklol’s fourth, before Muhammadjon Rakhimov added another, latching onto to A. Dhzalilov’s defence-piercing ball to tuck in. Rustam Soirov added an extra sheen to the scoreline, cruising goalwards unchallenged to make it six.
CSKA Pamir Dushanbe 1-1 Fayzkand
(Gafforov 57; Safarzoda 72)
Shodibek Gafforov glanced in from Muhammadjon Rakhimov’s free-kick, whipped in dangerously from the right, to break the deadlock on 57 minutes. Fakhriddin Safarzoda supplied Fayzkand’s leveller, getting a crucial touch on an inswinging delivery.
Istaravshan 1-2 Khujand
(Barotov 10; Safarov 62, Abdugafforov 78pen)
Mbeke Siebatcheu’s smart ball over the top found Ilhomjon Barotov, whose first-time finish put the Northern Tigers ahead in the 10th minute. As the tie moved into the final third, Manuchehr Safarov headed Khujand’s equaliser, before Oybek Abdugafforov dispatched the winner from the penalty spot on 78 minutes.
Wondering which Tajik team you should pledge allegiance to? Here’s the lowdown.
We have put together this handy guide to help you decide which Tajik team you are going to get behind this season.
The firm favourites and rank outsiders
Champions for the past six seasons, Istiklol could be the club for the glory hunters among us. Going by their successful start to the season, yet to lose, they are strong favourites to hoist the cup once more.
Comparing his team to Barcelona, club captain Alisher Dzhalilov describes Istiklol’s playing style as “attractive, well-orchestrated”.
Before Istiklol’s reign at the top, Regar-TadAZ held the title between 2001 and 2008 – with the exception of 2005, when they finished runners-up to Khatlon. Since the turn of the century, Khatlon also claimed the title in 2009, between the reigns of the league’s two major 21st-century forces. Starting the 2020/21 season strongly, they have been dubbed Tajikistan’s “own Leicester” by Spanish newspaper Diario AS.
Also considering themselves contenders are Khujand who, for three seasons on the trot, have finished runners-up. This season’s underdogs come in the shape of top tier debutants Fayzkand Vose and Dushanbe-83, who finished second and third, respectively, in the second division last year to earn promotion.
Who are your team’s Tajik counterparts?
The familiarity of a team’s kit, badge or nickname might play a part in your choice.
Dushanbe-83 don their take on the classic Argentina look, with a slightly bolder shade of blue, which may also appeal to Sheffield Wednesday and Brighton and Hove Albion enthusiasts. Khujand’s first strip of a blue shirt, blue shorts and white socks brings Chelsea to mind, and CSKA Pamir’s all-red garb evokes Premier league frontrunners Liverpool. Istaravshan’s yellow and black colour scheme might win over those who back Watford or the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund.
In the badge department, Istaravshan’s crest, reminiscent of Leeds United’s between 1984-1998, may sway a few decisions. Fayzkand’s ball-gripping eagle boasts similarities to south London’s Crystal Palace, and Kuktosh’s white horse could be an omen for followers of English League One’s Ipswich Town and Gillingham.
Supporters of La Liga’s Athletic Bilbao might find themselves drawn towards nickname-sharers Istiklol, who also go by ‘the Lions’. Likewise, fans of English Championship side Millwall will be eager to keep singing:
“As the Lions run on the pitch, Everyone will sing, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, Let ’em all come down to The Den, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, Let ’em come, We’ll only have to beat ’em again, We’re the best team in LondonTajikistan.”
Still undecided? Check out the teams’ profiles below.
CSKA Pamir Dushanbe
Based: Dushanbe (capital city) Kit colour: red Best performance: winners x2 (1992, 1995) One to watch: Shodibek Gafforov For fans of: Liverpool
Based: Dushanbe (capital city) Kit colour: blue and white striped shirt, black shorts Best performance: debutants 2020 Ones to watch: Elchibek Rashidbekov, Agbley Jones For fans of: Brighton & Hove Albion, Sheffield Wednesday, Argentina
Did you know? Newly-promoted 83 have a strong Ghanaian influence. Among their ranks they boast five players hailing from the West African nation: Silvanus Evans (GK), Sadiq Musa (DF), Colins Adukhen (MF), Idris Aminu (FW), Agbley Jones (FW).
Based: Istaravshan (north) Nickname: The Northern Tigers Kitcolour: yellow and black Bestperformance: 2nd (1995) One to watch Bakhtovar Zokirov For fans of: Leeds United, Watford
Did you know? The Lions won the domestic Tajikistan treble in 2019 – claiming the league title, the league cup and the Super Cup.
Alisher Dzhalilov, Istiklol captain: “You can compare Istiklol with Real Madrid or Barcelona, who also dominate in their league with attractive, well-orchestrated football.”
Based: Vose (south-west) Kitcolour: red Best performance: debutants 2020 Ones to watch: Mukhsin Maduloev, Navruz Rustamov, Dalerjon Tukhtasanov For fans of: Crystal Palace
Based: Qurghonteppa (south-west) Kitcolour: yellow Bestperformance: winners x3 (1997, 2005, 2009) One to watch: Karomatullo Saidov Forfansof: Borussia Dortmund
Spanish newspaper Diario AS: “Tajikistan already has its own Leicester.”
Based: Khujand (north) Nickname: The Pitmen Kit colour: blue and white Best performance: runners-up (2019) Ones to watch: Tursunali Rustamov, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, Sanjar Rikhsiboev For fans of: Chelsea
Did you know? The Pitmen played and won their first football game 4-1 in 1925 “on a dry and empty field” against opposition from the northern area of Jabbor Rasulov.
Based: Kuktosh (west) Kitcolour: yellow and blue Bestperformance: 3rd (2018) One to watch: Muhiddin Odilov For fans of: Ipswich Town, Gillingham, Oxford Town, Sweden
Based: Dushanbe (capital city) Nickname: The Railway Men Kit colour: white and blue Bestperformance: 10th (2000) One to watch: Rustam Soirov For fans of: Tottenham, Preston North End
Based: Tursunzoda (west) Kitcolour: red and white Bestperformance: winners x7 (most recently 2008) One to watch: Sherzod Makhamadiev For fans of: Arsenal
Did you know? The club was established under the name Metallurg in 1975 by workers of the local aluminium industry. The western Tajikistan outfit have won the continental AFC President’s Cup three times: 2005, 2008 and 2009.
Istiklol claim 200th league win in second-half demolition of Kuktosh
Kuktosh sought to expose an Istiklol side that had scraped a 2-2 draw with Khatlon on home soil a week prior. Early high pressing from the visitors however, resulted in an abundance of space for the Lions to move in and out of, as the build up to Alisher Dzhalilov’s miscued overhead kick inside three minutes, had proven.
Alisher Dzhalilov latched onto a long ball over the top to set up Manuchekhr Dzhalilov who neatly tucked in on 15 minutes, to open the scoring. A slim 1-0 advantage at the interval, it wasn’t until the hour mark that Istiklol clicked into gear. M. Dzhalilov’s through ball cleaved apart the Kuktosh backline for Rustam Soirov to turn in and double their lead.
Five minutes later, M.Dzhalilov steered his second of the day into the bottom corner. Moments later, Muhammad Rahimov claimed their fourth as the ball found a way in through the legs of the keeper. Kholmurod Nazarov jabbed in for Kuktosh on 81 minutes, but Istiklol struck back immediately, as Soirov found a way through a huddle of red shirts to make it 5-1.
Soirov swept in for his hat-trick as the Lions tore through the dishevelled visitors at speed to make it 6-1 in stoppage time.
Khatlon continue winning run downing weary Khujand on the road
Some thorough tackling and cautious clearances – hurled back and forth – made for a frenetic opening to the match. Khatlon, resplendent in yellow, acted first to take the reins.
A dangerous deliverer of the ball, and keen to pull the trigger from distance, Khatlon’s No66 Naimjon Ibrahimzoda posed a constant threat from the right. Given too much room to cut inside onto his lethal left peg, in the 20th minute, the right back curled in a pinpoint cross to pick out Khudoidod Uzokov. Dropping into the path of the No10, he only had to make a connection to steer in the opener.
Khatlon’s advantage was doubled in the 35th minute – Khujand’s defence still hadn’t learnt their lesson, reacting slowly in shutting down Sorbon Avgonov, as he was allowed to casually bend into the top bin.
Khujand’s front line had been forced to feed off scraps in the first period, but from restart Khatlon were caught napping. Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev broke down the right to whip across the face of goal for Sanjar Rikhsiboev to turn in at the back post, bringing the hosts back into the tie.
Escaping a few moments of unease, Khatlon will thank the safe hands of Ghanaian keeper Quaye Godson, whose sterling shift between the sticks ensured his side kept the upper hand.
Parviz Baki-Akhunov converted the visitors’ third, blasting in off the upright on 72 minutes. And, despite a late resurgence through Dilshod Bozorov’s injury-time tap in, it was too late for Khujand to salvage a point.
Istiklol 2-0 CSKA Pamir
(A.Dzhalilov 18, Boboev 86)
The Lions’ persevere to seal victory
Alisher Dzhalilov broke the deadlock in the 18th minute, capitalising as CSKA failed to clear their lines – the No10 able to take a touch, pick his spot and drill low into the bottom corner.
Penned back for the most part, CSKA struggled to subdue the sharp Istiklol front line. In spite of ample opportunities however, the hosts failed to complete some slick passages of play and increase the deficit until the late arrival of Sheriddin Boboev.
Coming off the bench in the 75th minute, for the second match on the trot, Boboev killed off the tie, as he walloped home Istiklol’s second and high-fived the ball boys with minutes left on the clock.
Lokomotiv-Pamir 1-0 Dushanbe-83
(Ruziev OG 75)
Loko edge unlucky Dushanbe-83 to claim all three points late on
Izatullo Ruziev’s own goal was all that separated the sides at the final whistle. Shakhrom Sulaimonov’s searching 75th-minute free-kick – redirected by the Dushanbe-83 keeper – was inadvertently turned into the visitors’ net by the backtracking centre-half.
Dushanbe-83 had shown early promise, and for the majority of the match, looked the brightest side. Set up with intent, boasting a 4-2-4 formation, they sought to bounce back from the 7-0 mid-week hammering at the hands of Istiklol. Lokomotiv were aiming for their first win of the campaign following a 2-2 season-opener with Fayzkand.
A Dushanbe flurry inside 12 minutes set the tone, and Ismoil Alimardonov’s side-footed effort from the left forced the Loko shot-stopper into action. The Railway Men soon replied however, as Ozodbek Panjiev combined with Shakhrom Sulaimonov on the edge of the area to test the visitors’ custodian.
Relying on counter-attacks to breach a regimented home defence, 83 moved in their numbers, as swarms of sky blue jerseys were quick to both surge forward, and mute Loko’s advances.
From start to finish, causing the home side problems, was Dushanbe-83’s Ghanaian forward unit consisting of Idris Aminu, Agbley Jones and Colins Adukhen. Bursting forwards and chasing back, they battled for every loose ball, pouncing on any whiff of a chance. Their most promising attacking move came as Adukhen’s delivery, sliced in with the outside of his boot, was fired goalwards by Jones, who flung himself airborne to strike on the flying volley.
Nearing the final whistle, with the hosts narrowly leading and Dushanbe still turning the screw, Sulaimonov had the chance to kill the game off for Loko. His in-swinging free-kick though, was tipped onto the woodwork.
Manuchekhr Dzhalilov takes home the match ball in Istiklol’s seven-goal romp over newly-promoted Dushanbe-83.
Dushanbe-83, who finished third in the Tajik second tier last season, got off to a good start. Ghanaian speedster Agbley Jones knocking on the door straight off the bat. However, it wasn’t long before 2019 treble-winners Istiklol cranked it up a notch, and the game sparked into life. Breaking the deadlock in the 18th minute, Ehson Panjshanbe pinged into Turkmenistani No9 Wahyt Orazsähedow, to steer over the onrushing keeper. Five minutes later, Manuchekhr Dzhalilov’s acrobatic volley put the visitors 2-0 up.
CSKA’s Alisher Ergashev and Istiklol’s Ehson Panjshanbe trudged down the tunnel just before half-time in a double dismissal stemming from, what appeared to be, an accidental trip. Within seconds of the restart, Dzhalilov reacted quickest to glance in his second and the Lions’ third. Alisha Dzhalilov curled in a superb free-kick from distance, before M. Dzhalilov’s low blast confirmed his hat-trick. Sheriddin Boboev tucked in their sixth and seventh.
Khujand get their season off to a great start downing ten-man CSKA.
CSKA started brightly, popping it about at the back and pressing high with three-men up top. In the hope of breaching the hosts’ sturdy backline, deep-lying Khujand had resorted to thumping speculative long balls upfield.
Against the run of play, lofty Uzbeki marksman Andrey Sidorov’s powerful header broke the deadlock just before the half-time whistle. Growing in confidence, on 63 minutes Khurshed Beknazarov doubled Khujand’s advantage as CSKA failed to clear their lines.
A second yellow saw CSKA’s Firuz Bobiev dismissed on 67 minutes, though the hosts pulled one back in the 76th minute, Shodibek Gafforov getting his head to a loose ball in a goal-mouth scramble. Sidorov went close again, meeting a cross mid-air to side-foot over, but Manouchehr Ahmadov finally killed off CSKA, converting a penalty late in the day.
All four goals came in the second half – including Shakhrom Sulaimonov’s edge-of-the-box belter – as the top tier newcomers clashed in an entertaining draw in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe. A youthful Lokomotiv Pamir side came from behind twice, pulling level for a second time in the 73rd minute, as Azizdzhon Zaripov pounced on a loose ball to dink in and secure the visitors one point.
Khatlon 2-1 Istaravshan
(Baki-Akhunov 53, Boboev 90+4pen; Barotov 10)
Ehson Boboev dispatched a stoppage time spot kick for Khatlon to clinch a 2-1 opening-game victory over Istaravshan. Ilkhomdzon Barotov struck first, inside 10 minutes, putting the vistors in front. However, three-time league winners (1997, 2005, 2009) Khatlon rallied to claim a last-gasp win.
Kuktosh 0-0 Regar-TadAZ
Meanwhile in Rudaki, this year’s Tajikistan Federation Cup winners Kutkosh were held to goalless draw.
Local boy Sulaimonov is far from being a prolific scorer of hair-raising goals, as his gameweek one stunner against Fayzkand might suggest (video below). On loan from Istiklol, he failed to register a single goal last season with his parent club, but on matchday two, the 22-year-old registered his second this term, converting from a free-kick.
The No70, who’s earned one international cap for Tajikistan, will surely be a dead cert to start for Lokomotiv – a side in which the youngster looks to be featuring in a prominent role, thus his goal-scoring prospects enhanced.