Neftchi 5-4 South China: Goal-fest in Fergana
Berdiyev was undoubtedly the star of the show and sealed a 5-4 victory with a dramatic stoppage-time penalty to give the Uzbeks the upper hand at the end of a breathtaking encounter.
Neftchi boss Yuriy Sarkisyan had opted for an adventurous line-up that featured three strikers and it did not long for the hosts to take the lead.
Mansur Saidov beat three players and drove into the box before despatching a finish into the bottom corner to open the scoring after just five minutes.
The early goal seemed to settle Neftchi as they dominated play and looked likely to add to their tally but they were stunned in the 34th minute when South China equalised.
Keeper Yuriy Tsoy managed to turn a free-kick behind but from the resulting corner, Gerard Ambassa Guy found the back of the net.
Parity did not last long, though, as Berdiyev’s free-kick seconds later gave Neftchi the lead for a second time.
The Hong Kong side hit back again barely one minute after falling behind when Brazilian attacker RamÃ³n (RamÃ³n Rodrigo de Freitas) took advantage of a defensive lapse to score and it got even better for South China in the 41st minute when Kwok Kin-pong put them in front for the first time.
They could not hold until the break, however, as Alisher Halikov was brought down in the area and Berdiyev directed his spot kick into the bottom corner at the second attempt after the referee had ordered a re-take.
Sarkisyan brought off strikers Aziz Ibragimov and Hakimov Sherzod in the second-half in a bid to shore up his leaky defence and the tactical switch seemed to pay dividends as Neftchi held firm until a late flurry of goals.
Neftchi took a 4-3 lead with 10 minutes to go when Berdiyev completed his hat-trick after he headed home Timur Islamov’s cross but South China drew level once again four minutes later when Vladimir Radkevich conceded a penalty.
Leandro’s initial effort was saved by Tsoy but again a re-take was ordered and the Brazilian made no mistake at the second time of asking.
There was more drama to come, though, as Berdiyev held his nerve to score his second penalty and fourth goal of the game deep into stoppage-time to give Neftchi the slenderest of advantages for the return leg in Hong Kong on September 30.