April 13, 2024

‘Not just Nesterov’s fault,’ bellows Big Phil

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EbrahimzadehAFC – TASHKENT, Bunyodkor boss Luiz Felipe Scolari refused to pin the blame for his side’s 1-0 defeat to Zob Ahan on Ignatiy Nesterov despite the keeper gifting the visitors a first-half winner at JAR Stadium.

The visitors broke the deadlock against the run of play in the AFC Champions League Group B encounter after 29 minutes when Mohammad Ghazi flicked on a long throw and Nesterov dropped the ball at the feet of Mohammad Reza Khalatbari, who gratefully poked home from three yards.

Rivaldo was then sent off midway through the second-half for a high boot on Mohammad Mansouri as the pair contested a ball but despite some late pressure, the hosts could not conjure an equaliser.

It was Bunyodkor’s second defeat in a week to the Iranians following their 3-0 reverse in Esfahan and puts a serious dent in their bid to qualify for the knockout stage from Group A.

But Scolari felt the team bore collective responsibility for the disappointing loss.

“On the goal that we conceded, I could not just accuse our goalkeeper,” said the former Chelsea, Portugal and Brazil boss (pictured).

“All the players were involved.”

Scolari had no complaints about the result after seeing Rivaldo, Denilson and Server Djeparov among others spurn opportunities and conceded they can afford no further slip-ups if they are to reach the last 16.

“We played well today but not enough well to win,” he said.

“It’s a football and the ball is round. Such losses happen. We had more chances to score but we made mistakes. Now we have to win both matches to continue in the tournament.”

The Brazilian also felt Rivaldo’s dismissal was a touch harsh as he felt there was no intent on the part of the veteran midfielder to injure Mansouri.

“I think Rivaldo has to be booked at that time but not to be sent off,” he added.

“Sometimes, referees have to analyse episodes and whether there was a deliberate challenge or not.”

Zob Ahan, on the other hand, consolidated their position at the head of Group B and are now strong favourites to qualify.

Boss Mansour Ebrahimzadeh did admit, however, that his side enjoyed the rub of the green in Tashkent.

“We were lucky tonight,” he said.

“We prepared well for the match and we knew that it would be a difficult match. We capitalised on the mistakes made by our opponents and it helped us to win. I’d like to congratulate our fans and my players for this win.”

He also had words of encouragement for their vanquished opponents.

“I think Bunyodkor still have a chance to qualify for the knockout stage,” Ebrahimzadeh added.

“But they have to win both their remaining matches.”