Al Gharafa lose to FC AGMK in AFC Champions League play-off
Qatar’s Al Gharafa went down fighting 0-1 to Uzbekistan side FC AGMK in the 2021 AFC Champions League play-off at the Al Gharafa Stadium on Wednesday.
Jovan Djokic secured victory for the visitors by scoring a last-gasp goal in a game that went into extra time after regular time failed to produce a goal.
AGMK will join Group A featuring Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia, Shabab Al Ahli of the UAE and FC Istiklol of Tajikistan.
Three Qatari clubs (Al Duhail, Al Rayyan and Al Sadd who finished in that order in the 2019-20 season QNB Stars League final standings), will play in the West Asia group stage of tournament proper, while fourth-placed Al Gharafa had to go into play-off for a place in the main draw.
Djokic broke through after nearly two hours of a tense but goalless football, with Mirjalol Kasimov’s side missing several chances before finally booking their place in the main draw.
Al Gharafa went into the game on the back of unimpressive form, having had a series of negative results on the domestic front, whereas AGMK looked more mobile, confident and grew stronger as the first half went on, going close to taking the lead when Husniddin Gafurov’s fine long-range effort produced an equally-impressive low save from Al Gharafa goalkeeper Yousef Hassan after 19 minutes.
Al Gharafa were under serious pressure, but they ended the half the stronger, missing an opportunity on the counterattack when Amro Seraj failed to make the most of an excellent Sofiane Hanni pass, before Hanni tried a shot of his own moments later, with Valijon Rakhimov called upon to make a straight-forward but important save on the stroke of half-time.
Aleksandr Kasyan had the ball in the back of the net for AGMK six minutes into the second half, but the goal was chalked off when the Ukrainian striker was spotted marginally offside, and the chances kept coming with Hassan saving to deny Akramkon Komilov before Sardor Rakhmanov missed a free header from the subsequent corner kick just shy of the hour mark.
As in the first half, the visitors failed to capitalise and, similarly, the hosts failed to make them regret it, with the increasingly tired sides both creating their fair share of promising openings as the minutes ticked away, but both lacking the execution required to settle the tie in normal time.
With the stakes abundantly clear, AGMK once again began the first period of extra time on the front foot and it took a crucial clearance from Al Gharafa defender Hector Moreno to prevent substitute Mirjamol Kasimov from breaking the deadlock when Hassan was caught out of position in the 109th minute.
AGMK finally broke through in the very last minute of extra time when Serbian midfielder Djokic kept his nerve to slam home the winner after a brief scramble.
Djokic seized on a loose ball after Kasimov’s in-swinging corner kick hit the upright directly from a corner kick, but showed great composure to pick out the roof of the net, and send his club into the group for the very first time.