Oct 31 (Reuters) - Johor Darul Ta‘zim became the first Malaysian winners of the AFC Cup after a 1-0 smash-and-grab win over Tajikistan’s Istiklol away in Dushanbe on Saturday.
Argentine playmaker Leandro Velazquez scored the only goal with a 23rd-minute volley, leaving Istiklol to bemoan three efforts ruled out for offside on the astro-turf pitch at their sold-out Pamir Stadium.
Malaysian champions JDT are the first side outside of the Middle East and Uzbekistan to win the regional club tournament for developing Asian nations, which is in its 12th year and has been dominated by Kuwaiti clubs in recent seasons.
JDT and Tajikistan double winners Istiklol were fortunate first-time finalists after both lost to fancied Kuwait opposition in the first legs of their semi-finals.
Defending champions Al-Qadsia, who beat JDT 3-1, and Al-Kuwait, who thumped Istiklol 4-0, were kicked out of the tournament before the second legs after FIFA banned the country for government interference in the local football association. (Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Clare Fallon)