Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bunyodkor signal intent early

Luiz Felipe Scolari's decision to exclude Stevo Ristic from his Asian Champions League squad looks to have been vindicated after Bunyodkor hammered Al Ittihad 3-0 in their opening match in this year's competition.

The omission of the Macedonian, who played a major role in Pohang Steelers' ACL win last year, had the potential to be controversial but any thought that it might come back and bite Scolari has now evapourated with such a comprehensive victory.

The result is an impressive one for a club that has yet to really take advantage at Asian level of its huge financial resources. One appearance in the semifinals and one in the quarterfinals is a fairly limited return for the huge sums being spent by the Tashkent club.

Of course, it could be argued that the club didn't even exist seven or eight years ago, so even those results are remarkable. And while that is true, Bunyodkor's climb to the top of the ladder in Uzbekistan has been relatively straightforward - even if has been achieved by buying up all the best players from Pakhtakhor and supplementing them with some very good foreigners and a decent coach.

Succeeding at Asian level, though, is proving to be more difficult and that speaks volumes about not only the standard of the Asian club game now but also about how difficult it is to counteract the numerous different styles coaches and players encounter when they participate in a competition of this nature.

But could this be the season when all that money finally buys the Asian title? It's certainly a very good start, which is made all the better when you think that the Uzbek league has yet to kick off. On top of that, Bunyodkor were playing against an Al Ittihad side that is in the middle of their own domestic league (and they also reached the final of last year's competition).

However, it's still early days and nothing is ever won this early in the piece.

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