Uzbekistan showed they will be a team to be reckoned with in the knockout stage of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 after an emphatic 3-0 win over Vietnam at the Khalifa International Stadium yesterday.
A first half surge saw Uzbekistan hit the back of the net three times as the 2018 champions concluded their Group D campaign with a perfect nine points.
They meet defending champions Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals tomorrow while Vietnam, who also advanced despite the defeat, will go up against Iraq.
Having already clinched their respective quarter-final spots with a match to spare, Vietnam rotated their squad with head coach Hoang Anh Tuan making eight changes to his starting lineup, while Uzbekistan included Abdukodir Khusanov and Ibrokhimkhalil Yuldoshev, the players having been released by their French and Russian clubs respectively.
It didn’t take long for Uzbekistan to assert their supremacy, with the Central Asian side taking the lead as early as the fourth minute.
The play unfolded with Jasurbek Jaloliddinov delivering a well-timed pass to Ibrokim Ibragimov, who beat the offside trap to set up Alisher Odilov, who tapped home from close-range.
Vietnam looked to hit back and had a chance of a counter attack in the 20th minute but Nguyen Minh Quang, after intercepting a pass from Muhammadkodir Hamraliev, opted to shoot rather than pass to Vo Nguyen Hoang, with his shot going wide.
The 2018 runners-up kept pressing but were undone in the 36th minute when Ruslanbek Jiyanov sprinted past the defence to receive the ball from a long-range free kick, finishing with a superb shot into the bottom-left corner.
Four minutes later, Odilov doubled his tally by heading home Saidazamat Mirsaidov’s cross, giving Uzbekistan a comfortable lead going into the break.
Hoping to spark a second half comeback, coach Hoang introduced four fresh players, but Vietnam remained on the defensive, struggling to withstand the relentless pressure from Uzbekistan.
Vietnam became more assertive as the match progressed but it was Uzbekistan who came the closest to scoring with Ibragimov and substitute Diyor Kholmatov denied by the upright in the 74th and 84th minutes respectively.
Winning finish for Kuwait
Kuwait secured their first-ever win at the after defeating Malaysia 2-1 in their final Group D match yesterday.
Both teams had already been eliminated prior to the match but the win for Kuwait allowed them to leave on a high while Malaysia go home without a point for the second successive edition.
Malaysia started on the front foot and fashioned two opportunities before the 20-minute mark with Luqman Hakim finding the back of the net only to be judged offside, with Daryl Sham then forcing Kuwait defender Khalid Alfadhli into a block to deny his side footed attempt.
Kuwait withstood the early pressure and started to pose questions to the Malaysian defence as the half wore on with Salman Mohammed’s free-kick after half an hour requiring Malaysian goalkeeper Sikh Izhan Nazrel to be sure with his handling of the ball.
A minute before half-time, the tide turned when Sikh Izhan was shown a straight red card after barging into Salman in his attempt to clear the ball.
Things got worse for Malaysia in the 14th minute of added time when referee Alexander King, after a VAR check, awarded Kuwait a penalty for Umar Hakeem’s foul on Talal Alqaisi with Salman converting with ease past substitute custodian Firdaus Irman. Despite playing with a man down, Malaysia started the second half the brighter of the two sides, using the pass of Haqimi down the right to get behind Kuwait’s defence but Faisal Alshatti made a superb last ditch clearance before the ball reached Mukhairi Ajmal.
Kuwait increased their lead on the hour mark when substitute Sultan Alfaraj, on the pitch for mere seconds, delivered the perfect cross for Alqaisi to thump home. Malaysia reduced the deficit three minutes later when Nooa Laine sent a long diagonal pass to Haqimi with the Kuala Lumpur City FC forward slamming his low shot past Abdulrahman.
Kuwait’s numerical advantage was taken away in the 84th minute when goalscorer Salman was shown a straight red for a rash challenge on Umar but were able to fend off Malaysia until the final whistle to secure the win.
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