AFC CUP FINAL FLASHBACK: NASAF V KUWAIT SC (2011)
Kuala Lumpur: The 2011 AFC Cup witnessed a piece of history as Nasaf became the first Uzbek team to reach the final of an AFC tournament. It was also the first time a team from outside West Asia reached the final.
Waiting on the other side for them were 2009 champions Kuwait SC, who ensured Kuwait had a representative in the final for the third year running. This trend would continue for three more years.
Two different paths
The two finalists progressed through the group stage in contrasting fashion; Nasaf swept their way through their group while Kuwait SC struggled before sealing their Round of 16 spot on the last day.
Nasaf's historic run began in Group A where they were placed alongside Dempo of India, Al Ansar of Lebanon and Al Tilal of Yemen.
What ensued was a show of power as the Uzbek side won all six of their group games, wrapping qualification with two games remaining.
Nasaf scored a total of 30 goals and conceded only four in the group stage, the highlight being a 9-0 demolition of Dempo in Karshi.
Montenegrin striker Ivan Boskovic scored a whopping eight goals as they went on to set up a Round of 16 clash with two-time AFC Cup champions Al Faisaly.
As for Kuwait SC, they began strongly with a 3-1 win away at Al Suwaiq followed by a 1-0 victory over Al Talaba at home.
However, they then went on to have a three-game winless streak that threatened to prevent the former champions from reaching the knockout stage.
Eventually, Kuwait SC found their way through with a final day 2-1 triumph over Al Talaba, courtesy of a late penalty by Jarrah Al Ateeqi.
After finishing second behind Al Wehdat in Group D, Kuwait SC qualified for a Round of 16 clash against familiar foes Qadsia SC.
Nasaf knew they could have their work cut out for them in the Round of 16, when they came up against an Al Faisaly side looking to repeat their triumphant runs of 2005 and 2006.
The Uzbeks would go on to take a 2-0 lead by the hour mark but the win was only secured after surviving a late scare following Anas Hijah's goal for their Jordanian opponents. Nasaf thus qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time, bettering their Round of 16 exit the previous season.
In turn Kuwait SC’s round of 16 encounter was a tricky one - despite taking the lead twice - but local rivals Qadsia SC came back on both occasions to equalise, leading to a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
After extra time ended with no further goals, the match had to be settled on penalties, which saw Kuwait SC emerge 3-2 winners and enter the quarter-finals.
In the first leg of the quarter-finals, Nasaf travelled to Thailand to face Chonburi and came away with a 1-0 win after yet another Boskovic strike.
Chonburi then returned the favour with a 1-0 win in Karshi, taking the tie into extra time then penalties.
Therdsak Chaiman missed the final kick for Chonburi and Nasaf progressed to the semi-finals.
Kuwait SC had it slightly easier against another Thai side when they hosted Muangthong United in the first leg of the quarter-final.
A Rogerinho goal gave them a 1-0 home win before they held on for a goalless draw in Thailand to book a spot in the semi-finals.
Among the semi-finalists, only Kuwait SC had prior experience of playing in the final. They went on to display the benefits of that experience when they withstood the challenge of Iraq's Arbil to go through to the final with a 5-3 aggregate win.
As for Nasaf, they continued their dream run in their second ever AFC Cup appearance after overcoming Jordanian side Al Wehdat in their semi-final fixture.
A narrow 1-0 win at home was followed by a 1-1 draw in Amman, which saw Boskovic add to his personal tally and score his tenth goal of the campaign.
Next up was the main event - a single legged final to decide who would lift the title in the eighth edition of the AFC Cup. Nasaf were drawn to host the match at the Markaziy Stadium in Qarshi.
After a scoreless first half, the tie suddenly came to life with three goals in the space of seven minutes midway through the second half.
It was the home side who took the lead an hour into the game after Ilkhom Shomurodov tapped in from close range to make it 1-0 before Latvian midfielder Andrejs Pereplotkins doubled their lead just three minutes later.
Kuwait SC’s response was instant and Boris Kabi halved the deficit with a placed effort inside the box. However, that was all Kuwait SC could muster and despite pressing on until the end in search of an equaliser, Nasaf held on to clinch a historic triumph.
Nasaf's players swept the individual awards on the night, as Boskovic was recognised as the tournament's top scorer while Artur Gevorkyan, the man who created both goals in the final, was named as the Most Valuable Player.
Photos: Lagardère Sports