Tajikistan's Istiklol FC dominated for extended periods but ultimately settled for a narrow 1-0 home win over JSW Bengaluru in the first leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zone final on Wednesday.
Dimitri Barkov scored the only goal of the evening after 27 minutes, powering in a diving header from a pinpoint cross by skipper Fathullo Fathuloev.
A combination of wasteful finishing by the hosts and impeccable goalkeeping from Bengaluru's summer signing Gurpreet Singh prevented the Tajik side from increasing their lead.
Ehsoni Panshanbe's 38th minute long-range shot forced a save from Singh before Jahongie Aliev attempted a volley from inside the box that sailed high.
The second half followed the same pattern as Fathuloev came close again from a free-kick and Manuchehr Dzhalilov thought he had scored his eighth goal of the competition after rounding the Indian goalkeeper and putting the ball in the back of the net, but the Tajik international was in an off-side position.
Mukhsin Mukhamadiev's men remain unbeaten in the competition and have extended their run to nine matches without defeat as they take a one-goal lead to the second leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zone Final in three weeks.
Istiklol advanced to the Inter-Zone final after beating Philippiens' Ceres-Negros FC in the semi-finals.*afc.com
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