Nasaf’s 19-year-old striker Khusain Norchaev scored a hat-trick.

Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf roared into next month’s 2021 AFC Cup Inter-Zone Final, comprehensively eliminating Indian outfit ATK Mohun Bagan with a 6-0 win at Markaziy Stadium on Wednesday.

Nasaf’s 19-year-old striker Khusain Norchaev scored a hat-trick in the first 32 minutes to rise to the top of the tournament scoring charts, with a Pritam Kokal own goal and Oybek Bozorov’s tap in completing a blistering five-goal first half which delighted the home crowd.

Substitute Doniyorjon Narzullaev added a sixth after the break, putting Ruzikul Berdiev’s side within 90 minutes of their first AFC Cup Final since winning the title a decade ago, with Lee Man FC of Hong Kong all that stands between them and November’s decider.

Alarm bells were ringing for the visitors almost as soon as the ball was kicked, with Norchaev stealing possession and forcing Amrinder Singh into a save within 30 seconds, and it took less than four minutes for the opening goal to arrive, with Kokal deflecting Carl McHugh’s attempted clearing header into his own net following a corner kick.

Norchaev missed with the goal at his mercy after being teed up by Sherzod Nasrullaev in the 10th minute but, with Nasaf’s off-the-ball movement on a higher plane, ATK Mohun Bagan failed to heed that warning, with Norchaev getting in between two prone defenders to poke home another pinpoint delivery from the left full-back eight minutes later.

A young striker of some promise, Norchaev was well on the way to his hat-trick when he poked home his second to punish more sluggish defending in the 21st minute, and he completed the achievement when he made the most of a sublime no-look pass from Sukhrob Nasrullaev as Nasaf went four ahead with only 32 minutes played.

ATK Mohun Bagan earned a rare reprieve when FC Nasaf player Bozorov slammed a penalty kick against the crossbar after Kotal had fouled Bakhrom Abdurakhimov, but their relief, and Bozorov’s regret, were short-lived as Dilshod Saitov got in behind the overwhelmed defence to set up the same player for perhaps the easiest goal of this season’s AFC Cup to make it 5-0 at half-time.

Having failed to come to grips with their rampant hosts in the opening 45 minutes, ATK Mohun’s Bagan’s thoughts turned to damage limitation; a task made more manageable by the departure of Norchaev, who was replaced by Andrija Kaluđerović at the interval.

It was another substitute, Narzullaev, who added the seventh, slamming the ball into the roof of the net after being sent through on goal by Marko Stanojević’s pass in the 71st minute,

A fifth successive AFC Cup win emphatically secured, Nasaf can now look ahead to the October 20 visit of East Zone winners Lee Man, with another success to take the Uzbek club a step closer to emulating their 2011 triumph.

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