Uzbekistan coach Cuper praises Oman's second half performance


Hector Cuper.- AP file photo
Hector Cuper.- AP file photo

Sharjah - Odil Akhmedov's beautiful free-kick gave Uzbekistan the lead in the 34th minute.

By Rituraj Borkakoty

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Published: Wed 9 Jan 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 Jan 2019, 5:19 PM

Hector Cuper heaved a sigh of relief after his 'nervous' Uzbekistan team carved out a narrow 2-1 win over the skillful Oman in their Group F encounter of the Asian Cup at the Sharjah Stadium on Wednesday.
Oman, the Gulf Cup champions, had the lion's share of possession, but the Uzbek resilience eventually helped them start their campaign on a positive note.
"My players were a bit nervous at the start of the match. That's why their attacking play wasn't so good. They were nervous. It was a tough game. As we know, Oman is a very good national team. This team is a champion of the Gulf Cup. They can control the ball so well," Cuper told reporters at the post-match press conference.
Odil Akhmedov's beautiful free-kick gave Uzbekistan the lead in the 34th minute, but the Omanis came out in the second half with renewed vigour and they found the equalizer through Muhsen Al Ghassani in the 72nd minute.
"I could say that two halves were completely different. I think we played a bit better in the first half. I think in the second half unfortunately Oman had more control of the game," Cuper admitted.
"They found the space in the second half and scored the goal. Both the teams had enough chances to score. Even after Oman scored, we had chances to score. But overall, it was a good game and I am happy with the win."
The former Inter Milan coach said Oman deserved praise for their second half performance.
"I never asked my boys at half time to play defensive football. During the break, I told the boys that they should maintain the ball. But unfortunately for us, Oman were very good in the second half, they controlled the ball. They put lot of pressure on us. Also, they made two very good substitutions and it helped them play a lot better," he said.
But in the 85th minute, Uzbekistan found their hero in substitute Eldor Shomurodov whose brilliant individual goal broke Omani hearts.
"Of course, we still had expectations after Oman scored the equaliser. We never surrendered and that's why we managed to score the match-winning goal," Cuper said.
The hard-fought win has now given confidence to his team ahead of their next game against neighbours Turkmenistan on January 13.
"It's always nice to start a tournament with three points. It's really difficult to achieve everything in this kind of tough tournament. But the win has given us confidence to play better football in our next games. We will play Turkmenistan in our next match and we know their style of play. It's not going to be an easy match but we will be ready for them," Cuper said.
Oman, which have never gone past the group stages in Asian Cup, face a do-or-die battle against Japan who beat Turkmenistan 3-2 in the other Group F game on Wednesday.

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