Shomurodov breaks Omani hearts
Odil Akhmedov of Uzbekistan takes a goal-bound shot during the match against Oman at the Shajrah stadium on Wednesday.
Sharjah - Down to 10 men in the 92 minute, the Uzbeks held on to complete what was a highly satisfying victory for Cuper
By Rituraj Borkakoty
Published: Wed 9 Jan 2019, 6:58 PM
Last updated: Wed 9 Jan 2019, 9:05 PM
Their performance may not have illuminated the stage, but Uzbekistan players were still jumping for joy after their hard-fought 2-1 win over Oman in their Asian Cup Group F encounter at the Sharjah Stadium on Wednesday.
Out-passed by the skillful Omanis for the large parts of the game, Hector Cuper's team still went on to earn three points, thanks to a brilliant individual goal from golden sub Eldor Shomurodov in the 85th minute.
Down to 10 men in the 92 minute, the Uzbeks held on to complete what was a highly satisfying victory for Cuper.
The Argentinian coach was delighted when captain Odil Akhmedov's free-kick gave the team 1-0 lead in the 34th minute, but the Omanis hit back in the second half with a 72nd minute equalizer from Muhsen Al Ghassani.
Shomurodov, though, made sure Uzbeks go into the second round of group matches with three points with a majestic run and a wonderful finish.
In a first half that produced a highly tactical battle, both teams refused to give an inch as they battled for midfield supremacy.
To avoid the crowded midfield, Peter Verbeek's team identified the right flank as the key area in their attacking plans and soon the impressive wing-back Saad Al Mukhaini started making those runs and sending crosses to the Uzbek box.
This passage of play produced Oman brightest chance when captain Ahmed Al Mahaijri's header from a corner in the 15th minute was brilliantly saved by Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
The pragmatic football continued as the Oman fans beats drums and sang their team song only for the Uzbeks to silence them in the cruelest manner.
Against the run of play, striker Marat Bikmaev won a freekick in a promising position in the 33rd minute. Akhmedov took the ball before unleashing a beautiful shot that beat the wall and Omani goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi.
This was the 31-year-old Akhmedov's 18th international goal in his 92 match.
And it was a goal that suddenly lifted the Uzbek spirits as Oman, which have never gone past the group stages in Asian Cup, were beginning to look demoralized.
Sensing an opportunity, Cuper urged his men to attack. Sardor Rashidov, Uzbekistan's top scorer in the qualifying rounds with five goals, found space in the 44th minute, but his shot just flew over the crossbar.
Then it was Oman's turn to rue a missed chance as Mohammed Al Musallami's clever effort was saved by Nesterov in the injury time.
The Omanis came out in the second half with renewed vigour as they relentlessly searched for an equalizer.
Some desperate defending from the Uzbeks, who kept throwing bodies in the box to protect the goal, kept their lead intact.
But the Omanis eventually found the back of the net. Again their chance came when they used their wingplay to perfection.
Ali Al Busaidi beautiful ball from the left flank found substitute Muhsen Al Ghassani whose smart finish sparked wild celebrations among the Omani fans in the stadium.
But their joy was short-lived as Shomurodov majestic individual goal clinched the deal for the 2011 Asian Cup semifinalists.
Uzbekistan 2 Oman 1
Japan 3 Turkmenistan 2