Aussies and Uzbeks share points and passage into knockout rounds

January 23 – The points were shared as Group B leaders Australia faced second-place Uzbekistan at the Al Janoub Stadium, as Azizbek Turgunbaev cancelled out Martin Boyle’s controversial penalty with a towering header to send both teams through to the Round of 16. 

Despite their comfortable position coming into the game with qualification already guaranteed, Australia opened the game quickly, with Aussie midfielder Riley McGree eager to demonstrate his pace as he zipped past defenders in the early stages.

Uzbek winger Urunov created a good opportunity to score form a breakaway, but was easily managed by towering defender Harry Souttar. It was to become the pattern of the match.

Uzbekistan looked more dangerous in the opening half hour, which fell victim to both teams preferring to protect their own goal than score.

Australia looked relaxed, playing the ball into comfortable areas of the pitch and relying on defensive giants Souttar and Kye Rowles to distribute whilst mopping up the opposition’s heavy touches.

Australia were snapped out of their comfort by a lucky escape: Uzbekistan failed to convert a 3v1 chance after Rustamjon Ashurmatov made a fantastic interception, marching from defence into midfield.

As the move reached its critical moment, the Uzbek attacker opted for the wrong pass, allowing for a comfortable save from Matt Ryan.

Just before half time and against the run of play, Australia were awarded a penalty for handball by Odiljon Khamrobekov. Despite the lengthy VAR check, the spot kick was coolly converted by Boyle as he passed the ball into the bottom right corner to give his side a controversial lead.

Uzbekistan were furious at the officials after conceding the penalty as a wave of aggression engulfed the side.

Thriving in the chaos, Australia were able to fashion multiple chances ahead of half-time but couldn’t find the finish to double their lead.

Uzbekistan returned to play having gathered a grip on their frustrations, playing with much more composure than at the end of the first half.

Syria’s goal in the other group game in the 75th minute, seemed to spark an energy in Uzbekistan resulting in a towering header from Turgunbaev. The attacker came flying in at the back post to draw the game level and secure second place.

Both teams now move into the last 16 rounds later this week.

Uzbek goalscorer Turgunbaev said: “Today we got the necessary result by following all the instructions of the head coach. In the first half we played defensive football to protect a point, but in the second half, as we were losing, we had to attack more and change our focus.”

Australian striker Yengi said: “We obviously wanted to win but we got a point and still topped the group, so we’re content… “I don’t really care, we’ve got a great team and when we play at our best we can beat anyone.”

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1712961687labto1712961687ofdlr1712961687owedi1712961687sni@g1712961687niwe.1712961687yrrah1712961687

 


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