Tajikistan edges the UAE while Australians walk into the quarterfinals
Debutants Tajikistan advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup after a hard-fought 5-3 penalty shootout win over UAE at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Sunday.
The match was forced into an additional 30 minutes after UAE’s Khalifa Al Hammadi scored in the fifth minute of the second half added time to cancel Vahdat Hanonov’s opener.
Goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov was Tajikistan’s hero, judging correctly to deny Caio Canedo’s penalty when the shootout score was at 1-1. The Central Asians extended their debut campaign to the quarterfinals, with either Iraq or Jordan their next opponents.
Earlier, Australia had become the first team to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup quarterfinals after Jackson Irvine’s deflected effort and a diving header from Martin Boyle helped them beat Indonesia 4-0 ay the Jassim bin Hamid Stadium.
Graham Arnold’s side will take on either Saudi Arabia or South Korea next Friday with a place in the semifinals at stake.
Both Tajikistan and the UAE showed plenty of attacking intent right from the onset with the latter having the first sight at goal. The chance came within the opening minute as Fabio Lima’s free-kick was palmed away by Tajik goalkeeper Yatimov, followed by striker Canedo’s attempt from outside the box that sailed too high five minutes later.
However, it was Tajikistan who scored the opener after defender Zoir Dzhuraboev’s inch-perfect cross was headed into the bottom left corner of the UAE goal by Hanonov just as the match hit the half-hour mark.
The Emiratis spent the rest of the first half continuing to make forays into the Tajik penalty area, with charges from the likes of Canedo, Lima and Yahya Al Ghassani, but failed to find a way through.
Tajikistan missed several scoring chances and it came back to haunt them as the UAE equalised right at the end, with defender Khalifa Al Hammadi rising high to nod home Ali Saleh’s free-kick in the fifth minute of added time. It took the game to an additional 30 minutes.
Neither side looked eager to take risks in added time with Yatimov producing the only save of the shootout to take Tajikistan through.
The Australians took the lead against Indonesia in the 12th minute after Irvine’s shot went in off Elkan Baggott before doubling their advantage in the final minute of the half when Boyle threw himself at Gethin Jones’ cross from the right.
Craig Goodwin added the third a minute from time with a well-struck volley and, little more than two minutes later, Harry Souttar headed in Australia’s fourth.
Boyle’s goal gave the Australians the cushion needed to see off an opponent that refused to be overawed despite the gap between the teams in the FIFA rankings, with Shin Tae-yong’s side rated 121 places behind the Socceroos but showing few signs that such a gulf existed.
It was unfortunate when Team Garuda went behind in the 12th minute following Irvine’s burst into the penalty area, the midfielder shrugging off Shayne Pattynama’s challenge before hitting a shot that took a deflection off Baggott to beat Ernando Ari at his near post.
The Socceroos delivered a sucker punch to Indonesia’s hopes in the 45th, Jones sending over a low cross from the right that bounced inside the six-yard box and Boyle threw himself forward headfirst to power the ball in.
Indonesia continued to push in an effort to give their indefatigable fans hope, but the result was put beyond doubt a minute from time when Goodwin volleyed in having seen Ernando parried his save of Irvine’s header into the substitute’s path.
Goodwin then turned provider two minutes later, setting up Souttar to glance his close-range header home.
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