Lokomotiv on Wednesday claimed the first major trophy in their 12-year history when Jasur Hasanov’s extra-time goal clinched the Uzbekistan Cup final against Tashkent rivals Bunyodkor.
The Cup final gave Almalyk Arena, the country’s new football stadium a remarkable chapter in its new but growing history.
The match began with a battle for the midfield zone, with both teams trying to earn the early advantage. Bunyodkor’s Vakhid Shadiev and Lokomotiv’s Alisher Shagulyamov failed to capitalise on good chances early on. Like the first half, the second began with end-to-end attacking. But after neither side could find the back of the net in full time, the two sides steeled themselves for another 30 minutes of football.
Substitute Khasanov, a former Bunyodkor mainstay who joined Lokomotiv this season, sent Railroaders fans into ecstasy with a near-post touch from fellow substitute Marat Bikmaev’s long pass at the very moment the board went up to signal ten minutes of stoppage time before penalties.
The goal was just reward for Lokomotiv, whose drive and intensity were in sharp contrast to the desperately lacklustre display served up by Bunyodkor as last season’s Prime League champions. Vadim Abramov’s side produced a performance full of attacking intent, clearly earning the historic win against their heavily-favored opponents.
After the match, Bunyodkor manager Sergey Lushan admitted that Lokomotiv were the superior side: “I want to congratulate Lokomotiv for entering history and for how well they played,” he told reporters. “My team is growing up. We have a good academy and we will create a new future with our young players. The young Swallows have a big future”.
Lulshan, who has been criticized for his team’s underwhelming fourth-place finish this season, added: “We’ve given playing time to all the players this year. I’m not afraid of using our young players.”
On the other side, the victorious Abramov was happy with the win: “We’re all satisfied because we played as we always want to play. Offensively and defensively, everything went right. The whole team played a good game.”
But with direct passage to the AFC Champions League all but assured, the 52-year-old sees the need for reinforcements ahead of next season.
“We must defend our country’s honour in Asian Champions League,” he reflected. “We especially need players who can create more on the inside of the pitch.”