Group B: Uzbekistan edge Tajikistan to seal quarter-final spot
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Uzbekistan are the first team to qualify for the AFC Futsal Asian Cup™Kuwait 2022 quarter-finals after beating Tajikistan 3-2 on Thursday.
The win, coupled with Bahrain and Turkmenistan’s 4-4 draw earlier in the day, meant that Uzbekistan are assured of a top spot finish in Group B, the-afc.com reported.
Uzbekistan forced the issue from the get-go and were successful in containing Tajikistan within their own half in the opening minutes at the Saad Al Abdullah Hall, but their Central Asian rivals proved to be tough opponents.
Tajikistan didn’t opt for a defensive approach and began pushing back, which allowed Uzbekistan to move on a counter-attack in the third minute. Anaskhon Rakhmatov’s lob caught the Tajik defence off guard with Firuz Bozmamadov left alone, and Elbek Tulkinov made quick work to beat the keeper to open the scoring.
Pairav Vakhidov’s Tajikistan side had shown how dangerous they could be in set-piece situations in the 4-3 win over Bahrain in their opener, and it was on display in the fourth minute when Fayzali Sardorov converted a corner kick with an incredible strike from over 20 metres out to equalise.
Uzbekistan regained the lead just three minutes later when Tajikistan’s Bahodur Khojaev’s poor clearance from outside the box led to Khusniddin Nishonov picking up the loose ball before converting it with a crackling effort.
Just before the half-time whistle, Rakhmatov volleyed home a kick-in set-piece that was too much for Tajik goalkeeper Bozmamadov to handle to ensure Uzbekistan a comfortable lead heading into the break.
The onus was on Tajikistan to find their way back, but they struggled to make plays against Uzbekistan’s immense pressure in the second half, coming closest to reducing their deficit in the 27th minute with Sardorov denied by the bar, before Uzbek goalkeeper Ravshan Elibaev pulled off an incredible save to deny Khojaev’s rebounded effort.
Tajikistan coach Vakhidov called on captain Dilshod Solomov to bear the responsibility of being the fifth attacking player in the final five minutes, a tactical decision that paid off in the 38th minute, when Sardorov pulled one back with a sublime volley.
But Uzbekistan held on to bag all three points and a place in the knockout stage.