Uzbekistan dethroned 10-man Saudi Arabia to book their spot in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024 semi-finals with a 2-0 win on Friday. Khusain Norchaev and Umarali Rakhmonaliev scored either side of half-time to secure Uzbekistan a fourth-consecutive semi-final appearance, taking them a step closer to their Olympic dream with the 2018 champions to face Indonesia in the last four on Monday.
Uzbekistan dominated the early possession but struggled to find openings against a Saudi Arabia side who employed aggressive man-to-man marking at the Khalifa International Stadium. Saudi Arabia had the first sight on goal in the 19th minute when Aiman Yahya sent a cross into the final third, but it was a little too high for an unmarked Meshal Sibyani to connect.
Uzbekistan’s attempt to match Saudi Arabia’s intensity almost backfired in the 41st minute when Abdurauf Buriev fouled Abdullah Radif at the edge of the box, but Yahya steered his free-kick just wide. The match swung into Uzbekistan’s favour two minutes into added time when Rayan Hamed’s failed clearance led to a moment of brilliance from Norchaev, who waltzed past a defender and goalkeeper Mohamed al-Absi before slotting home
The young Green Falcons returned for the second half with the same tenacity, with their heavy press keeping Uzbekistan on the defence, but the equaliser continued to elude them as neither Mohammed Abu al-Shamat nor Eid al-Muwallad could get their long-range efforts on target.
Saudi Arabia suffered a further blow in the 70th minute when Yahya was given his marching orders after a second yellow card, with Abbosbek Fayzullaev’s subsequent free-kick deflecting off the upright. Hopes for a Saudi Arabian comeback were then dashed in the 84th minute when Buriev’s fierce strike from nearly 30 yards out saw Al Absi parry the ball into the direction of a prowling Rakhmonaliev, who headed home the winner.
Iraq’s Jasim ends Vietnam’s run
At Al Wakra, Iraq became the final team to check into the semi-finals after they overcame Vietnam 1-0 at Al Janoub Stadium, joining Indonesia, Japan and Uzbekistan in the last four. With little separating the two sides, the decisive touch was supplied by Ali Jasim from the penalty spot in the 64th minute to give Iraq their first semi-final appearance since the 2016 edition, which was also held in Qatar. Iraq face Japan on Monday.