Uzbeks fluff their opening lines as Syria secure vital point

January 13 – Syria opened their Asian Cup account with a point following a goalless draw against a toothless Uzbekistan to throw Group B wide open and cast doubts over the Central Asians’ credentials. 

Hector Cuper’s team enjoyed a magnificent night showing grit, commitment, and discipline to hold Uzbekistan.

The hard-earned point opens up the possibility of the Syrians reaching the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time with India awaiting in their final group match.

If they possessed blue-collar qualities in abundance, it was more than simply a rearguard action. Syria had a couple of half-chances and a disallowed goal, and restricted Uzbekistan to attempts from outside the box in a match that only took off in the final 20 minutes when both sides sensed they could snatch the game.

In the 75th minute, Syrian goalkeeper Ahmad Madania dropped the ball, causing a first sign of alarm in his box, but he dealt easily with substitute Sherzod Nasrullaev’s ensuing cross. Nasrullaev and Abbosbek Fayzullaev, another substitute, provided Uzbekistan with more tenacity in the final third and in the 84th minute, the Uzbeks finally had their first shot on target but Madania punched the ball to safety.

At the other end, Ibrahim Hesar had the ball in the back of the net, pouncing on a precision cross from Moayad Ayan, but the striker was adjudged to be in an offside position. With the game getting stretched, the teams sensed a winner was in the air, but ultimately neither team could find the breakthrough.

It was a grandstand finish to a match that for 70 minutes had been a war of attrition. Managed by Srecko Katanec, the Uzbeks failed to settle against the Syrians, who set up in a 4-5-1 formation offering constant cover. They kept Uzbekistan at arm’s length and Hesar provided the danger for Syria with two quick attempts from the edge of the box inside the first ten minutes, but his shots lacked precision.

Neither side was prepared to risk much in the opening half an hour, stringing passes together in the midfield without ever progressing play. The Uzbeks often struggled to pick out the right pass or to play into space, clearly frustrating Katanec on the touchline. Syria simply didn’t give Uzbekistan a sight of goal and grew steadily into the match. Toward the end of the first stanza, Ammar Ramadan, one of Syria’s brighter players, flashed a shot across the face of the goal.

Missing their injured captain and star striker Eldor Shomurodov, it seemed the Uzbeks were full of self-doubt, a trait that has often hampered their progress, but there was no glossing over a poor first half with not a single shot on target. The Syrians had played the way Uzbekistan had feared – with classic Cuper organisation, sucking the energy out of their team.

It took until the 51st minute for the Central Asians to find some space and gaps, combining down the right to tee up substitute Abbosbek Fayzullaev who dragged his shot wide. At least, the move showed intent and creativity, in such short supply in the first half.

It was the portent of a fun finale, but the Uzbeks will be left to rue their lack of urgency and precision. They were simply toothless against a side that executed its game plan to perfection.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711665567labto1711665567ofdlr1711665567owedi1711665567sni@i1711665567tnuk.1711665567ardni1711665567mas1711665567

 

 


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