Neftchi coach Yuri Sarkisyan has called on Asian Football Confederation officials to clamp down on time wasting by Middle Eastern teams after a 1-1 draw with Al Najaf from Iraq saw the Uzbeks miss a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the AFC Champions League.
Victory against Al Najaf would have sent Neftchi into the last eight, but a draw against last year’s beaten finalists Al Karama in Syria will still be enough for Sarkisyan’s team to progress for September’s knock-out phase.
The Uzbek side took the lead through Akmal Holmatov two minutes before half time but a 60th minute equaliser from Ali Amran denied them a third straight win at home in the competition and set the scene for 30 minutes of frustration for Sarkisyan and his players.
"Frankly speaking, this was our worst performance of the campaign," he said. "The players were tired and there was a lack of movement in the midfield.
"But at the same time we need to ask the Asian Football Confederation to pay attention to the Arabian style of football, which consists of diving, time wasting and simulation. These are killing the game.
"Of course, Najaf would never have done this if we had been leading and we gave them the opportunity to do this when we conceded the goal.
"But if the referee has to add 20 minutes to the game because the Iraqi players are lying on the field then he must do it. I don’t see any other way to fight something that is so against football."
Wednesday evening’s result– plus Al Karama’s 1-1 draw with Al Sadd in Group C’s other fixture – sets up an enticing tie in the final round of group matches in two weeks’ time as Neftchi go to Al Karama’s imposing Khaled ibn Al Waleed Stadium needing just a draw.
"We will go to Homs and fight," said Sarkisyan. "It will be a big clash and the best team will go through to the quarter-finals.
"I hope that will be Neftchi but we need to be fresh and that will be difficult because of the Uzbekistan league schedule."
While the draw ended Najaf’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals, that – plus a sending off from the bench in injury time – did little to dampen coach Abdulghani Shahad’s satisfaction at his team’s display.
"I have to praise my team because we have drawn with the group leaders," he said. "Neftchi is a very strong team and they deserve to qualify for the quarter-finals.
"But we came here determined not to lose the match, even if we are already out of the competition. We played well today and we paid attention to all the strong aspects of Neftchi’s game. We were more disciplined and I think we are better prepared physically.
"We haven’t lost any of our away games. We beat Al Sadd in Qatar and drew with both Al Karama and Neftchi. If we had had the opportunity to play our home matches in Iraq, maybe we would have been able to qualify for the quarter-finals."