Australia see off Uzbekistan in SO
AL AIN: Goalkeeper Maty Ryan earned champions Australia a quarter-final place in the Asian Cup yesterday as he made two saves in a shootout to see off Uzbekistan with a 4-2 win on penalties after 120 goalless minutes.
The Brighton & Hove Albion keeper Ryan denied Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Dostonbek Khamdamov to leave Mathew Leckie to score the winning spot kick and take the Socceroos into the last eight.
The result was no less than the Australians deserved after dominating the second half and most of extra time in the 0-0 stalemate as they kept their hopes of a second successive title on track.
It was Uzbekistan, however, who had made the early running and Ryan was called into action just 10 minutes into the game as Eldor Shomurodov burst past Trent Sainsbury to force the Premier League keeper to block his close-range shot.
Australia carried little threat, with Aziz Behich registering his side’s only attempt on goal in the opening 45 minutes when he tried his luck from outside the area, but Ignatiy Nesterov had few problems.
Javokhir Sidikov flashed his long-range attempt narrowly wide of Ryan’s goal and Khamdamov should have done better when he was found by Shomurodov with time and space.
The Socceroos pressed in the second half, with Rhyan Grant heading over from an acute angle when Milos Degenek’s diagonal ball found him unmarked behind the Uzbekistan defence having moments earlier sent another header into the hands of Nesterov.
Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper was now seeing all the action, and he was forced to deny Leckie nine minutes after the Hertha Berlin winger came off the bench before pushing Tom Rogic’s deflected strike from outside the area wide for a corner.
Australia continued to be frustrated when the game went into extra time with Chris Ikonomidis, Leckie and Rogic all going close before the added period drifted towards penalties.
In the shootout, Behich saw his penalty saved by Nesterov before Tukhtakhujaev’s attempt was kept out by Ryan, and the Australia keeper denied Khamdamov in the penultimate round to leave Leckie to confirm the win.
Earlier, Takehiro Tomiyasu’s lone strike sent Saudi Arabia crashing out of the Asian Cup as Japan beat the three-time champions 1-0 to reach the quarter-finals yesterday.
Tomiyasu’s first-half header was enough to seal it for Japan as the last-16 game between two teams with seven titles between them failed to live up to its billing.
Japan, record four-time winners of the Asian Cup, march on to a quarter-final with Southeast Asian champions Vietnam despite not yet hitting top form at the tournament.
Saudi Arabia were in the ascendancy early on but it was Japan who snatched the advantage with a straightforward goal from a set piece on 20 minutes.
From a corner, Belgium-based defender Tomiyasu climbed above his marker and nodded firmly into the bottom corner for his first of the tournament.
The Saudis twice came close with headers as they strived for a way back, and Hatan Bahbri curled one just off-target as he went for the top corner.
Yoshinori Muto’s shot was blocked on the hour-mark but most of the chances were falling to Saudi Arabia, who will rue some wasteful finishing.
Bahbri’s shot from outside the box crept narrowly wide and Ali Al-Bulaihi powered a strong header over when the ball was knocked back into the area after a free-kick.
But despite a late flurry it remained another goalless outing for the Saudis, who haven’t hit the net since scoring six goals in their first two group games. – Agencies