Uzbekistan edge Iraq to lift title
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Umarali Rahmonaliev’s second half penalty earned hosts Uzbekistan a 1-0 victory over Iraq and the AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2023 title at a sold-out Bunyodkor Stadium on Saturday.
Captain Rahmonaliev stroked his 72nd minute spot-kick down the middle as Iraqi goalkeeper Hussein Hasan dived to his right after Abbosbek Fayzullaev had been upended in the box to earn Uzbekistan their first-ever title at this level.
The win means Uzbekistan join Japan, Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia and Iraq as the only nations to have won the Asian title at the U17, U20 and U23 levels and Ravshan Khaydarov’s side will go to the FIFA U20 World Cup in Indonesia in May as the continental champions.
Both Khaydarov and Iraq head coach Emad Mohammed made two changes to the teams that progressed through the semi-finals, with Uzbekistan leaving out striker Pulatkhuja Kholdorkonov while Ali Jassim, a doubt before kick-off, was named in Iraq’s starting line-up.
Sherzod Esanov and Asadbek Jurboev were selected for the hosts and it was Jurboev who on three occasions went closest to opening the scoring in the first 25 minutes.
A header over the bar in the fifth minute was followed by another miss nine minutes later, the Navbakhor striker stretching to meet Makhmudjon Makhamadjonov’s low centre from the left but his glancing touch was not enough to steer the ball past Hasan.
In the 24th minute Jurboev went closer still, controlling Fayzullaev’s pass from the right before striking goalward on the turn, only for Hasan to redirect the ball over the bar with his outstretched right foot.
Iraq rarely threatened in an opening half hour dominated by the hosts. Abdulrazzaq Qasim’s free-kick flew high over the bar while Otobek Boymurodov took two attempts to gather Jasim’s close range strike.
Uzbekistan, meanwhile, thought they had taken the lead when Fayzullaev finally found a way past Hasan but the assistant referee’s raised flag eventually silenced the raucous home support.
The Iraqis showed glimpses of their attacking promise, with Jasim the most likely to unlock the home defence.
Seven minutes before the interval he wriggled through the backline but the ball rolled harmlessly through to Boymurodov, while early in the second half his low shot was hit straight at the goalkeeper.
It was with a perfectly weighted pass in the 64th minute that Jasim looked to have finally opened up the Uzbeks, sliding the ball into the path of the onrushing Abdulqader Ayoob but Boymurodov was off his line quickly enough to block.
Iraq had slowly taken control of the game as the second half wore on, prompting Khaydarov to make substitutions that played a part in swinging the outcome in his team’s favour.
A cross-field ball from Nodirbek Abdurazzokov, on for Esanov in the 61st minute, pass sent Fayzullaev scampering into the penalty area before Sajjad Mohammed’s clumsy challenge upended the winger and referee Muhammad Nazmi Nasaruddin pointed to the spot.
Rakhmonaliev made no mistake, stroking his spot-kick down the middle as Hasan dived to his right to produce a deafening roar from the 33,834 crowd.
Both sides went close in the dying moments, with Hasan denying Abdurazzokov and Jakhongir Urozov almost putting the ball in his own net deep into injury time, but Uzbekistan held on to win the trophy.