Uzbekistan 3 (Rashidov 2′, 79′, Shodiev 71′) defeated Saudi Arabia 1 (Al Sahlawi Pen 60′)
Another colourful and passionate crowd were on hand to witness Uzbekistan victorious in the winner-takes-all clash in Melbourne. For a first half controlled by the Saudi’s, Uzbekistan took the early lead through young gun Rashidov in the 2nd minute. A lovely cut inside from the right was matched by a quality shot on his left foot, but replays showed the attempt nutmegged keeper Abdulluah, an embarrassing moment for the shot-stopper, and a proud moment for the competition mascot. The goal changed the entire complexion of the tournament for both teams – now it was the White Wolves who were going through from Group B.
However, going behind did not deter Saudi Arabia, who only needed a point to progress. The likes of Aldawsari, Alabid and Kariri took a foothold, allowing a lot of space for right fullback Alshahrani to utilise the cross. The half demonstrated everything that is good and bad about Saudi football, competent on the ball with speed and guile in wide areas, but a lack of killer instinct meant Uzbekistan were never really troubled, other than the odd ball-and-all clearance from Mulladjanov.
The major flashpoint came early on the hour mark, with the name Ben Williams becoming all too familiar to football fans. The softest of penalty decisions was awarded with barely minimal contact between Denisov and Hazazi, the Saudi striker seemingly resorting to theatrics to earn the spot kick. Al Sahlawi calmly slotted the penalty to make it 1-1, now it was the Green Falcons on their way.
The game descended into cynical fouling, sensing Ben Williams had lost control of the match. The Uzbeks were the ones to respond quickest. In the 71st minute, a delightful cross from Mulladjanov found Shodiev, with Abdullah again found wanting, not coming for the cross and paying dearly for it. With no one to close down the cross, it was a moment of poor concentration from the Saudis, forever their achillies heel. Now it was the White Wolves into the quarters.
With the substitution of skipper Kariri for Al Jassam, the Saudi’s were going to throw caution to the wind. However, the move backfired, in the 79th minute Uzbekistan quickly countered – Rashidov finding acres of space to calmly finish. 3-1, and there was no coming back for Saudi Arabia.
Uzbekistan now progress to take on South Korea in Melbourne. As for the Saudi’s, when Simon Hill asked his Foxsports colleague, “where do Saudi Arabia go from here?” he barely got the question out before Andy Harper replied, “the drawing board.” An all too familiar feeling.
Crowd: 10,871. The cricket match next door to the game denied a larger crowd but the crowd certainly made themselves heard, particularly the loud and passionate, and victorious, Uzbekistan crowd down the northern end. Except to hear more of the same from them in their Melbourne quarter final game and South Korea.
FTS Man of the Match: Sardor Rashidov. Since coming off the bench in Uzbekistan’s first match, Rashidov has been a class act and their best player. The Bunyodkor midfielder netted beautifully between a tiny space in the goal keeper’s legs in the opening couple of minutes before finishing off the game with just 10 minutes remaining.
China 2 (Ke 1′, 42′) defeated DPR Korea 1 (Lin 56′ OG)
Meanwhile, China held on to beat North Korea 2-1 in a packed house at Canberra Stadium. The victory put a rubber stamp on a Quarter Final appearance with the Socceroos in Brisbane for Thursday evening. A first minute goal to Sun set the tone, with the winger getting a brace just before the half time break. But North Korea did not bow out without a fight, forcing an own goal from Gao before hitting the bar to almost earn an unlikely point. The result means China finish top with 3 wins from 3 for 9 points, Uzbekistan 2nd on 6 points, Saudi Arabia 3rd with 3, and North Korea 4th with 0 points.
Crowd: 18,457. A packed Canberra stadium turned up to watch the final group B match,
FTS Man of the Match: Sun Ke. The right winger was able to score both goals for the Chinese, including a smart finish within the first minute which set the pace of the match. Australia will have to be wary of the Jiangsu Sainty attacker in their quarter final matchup.
Team Played Points Goal Difference
China 3 9 +3
Uzbekistan 3 6 +2
Saudi Arabia 3 3 0
North Korea 3 0 -5
Asian Cup 2015 Attendance Running Total: 344,452Google+