Al Wahda sent off rails by Lokomotiv Tashkent in 2018 AFC Champions League opener

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Lokomotiv Tashkent star Ikram Alibaev (l) chases down Al Wahda veteran Ismail Matar (Al Wahda).

A weakened Al Wahda were put to the sword in their brutal Group B-opener by Uzbekistan powerhouse Lokomotiv Tashkent, for whom attacking midfielder Ikram Alibaev may have already wrapped up the 2018 AFC Champions League’s goal-of-the-season award with his 52-yard lob in this 5-0 hammering.

With foreign stars Sebastian Tagliabue, Mourad Batna and Rim Chang-woo all left in Abu Dhabi, a youthful Clarets side were ripped asunder by rampant hosts on Monday. Brazilian centre forward Nivaldo slotted in the deserved 25th-minute opener, prior to a painful second-half collapse.

A trio of strikes went in from the 53-59th minute, the highlight being Uzbekistan international Alibaev’s stylish flick and precision chip from within his own half. In this spell, centre-back Saleem Sultan also erroneously slotted into the roof of Wahda’s net and ex-Al Jazira forward Sardor Rashidov found the bottom corner with stand-in goalkeeper Rashid Ali culpable.

The scoring was then rounded off with three minutes left by Alibaev’s powerful header from the edge of the penalty box.

Clarets coach Laurentiu Reghecampf must hope the trauma from this day does not transfer to Thursday’s quarter-final decider in the Arabian Gulf Cup against Al Ain, or their continuing challenge for the Arabian Gulf League.

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