Uzbekistan secured a quarter-final meeting with Saudi Arabia in the AFC Asian Cup after second half goals from Maksim Shatskikh, Timur Kapadze and Alexander Geynrikh lifted the central Asian side to a 3-0 win over China at Shah Alam Stadium on Wednesday, said the afcasiancup.com.
Shatskikh fired the Uzbeks ahead after 72 minutes, Kapadze added a second with four minutes remaining before Geynrikh netted the final goal deep into injury time as Rauf Inileyev’s side claimed second place in Group C behind Iran.
The Uzbeks will travel to Jakarta to face the Saudis in the last eight on Sunday, while China missed out on the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time since 1980.
China only needed a draw to progress and coach Zhu Guanghu made four changes to the side which drew 2-2 with Iran as Yang Jun replaced the injured Li Leilei in goal, Dong Fangzhou taking over from Wang Dong on the right wide and Du Wei and Zhang Shuai replaced suspended duo Li Weifeng and captain Zhang Zhi.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan coach Inileyev made three alterations from their 5-0 win over Malaysia as Aziz Haydarov, Aziz Ibragimov and Anvar Gafurov replaced Victor Karpenko, Anzur Ismailov and the suspended Islom Inomov.
Both teams started cautiously on the slick pitch at Shah Alam, which had been drenched by an earlier thunderstorm, and it was China that created the first chance after three minutes as Mao Jianqing’s low cross from the left flank was turned wide by Shao Jiayi.
Uzbekistan needed a win to progress and they threatened to open the scoring after 15 minutes when a shot from Server Djeparov on the right side of the China box nicked off Du Wei and fell into the grateful arms of Yang Jun.
Six minutes later, Zhou Haibin saw his well-struck long range free-kick turned over the Uzbek crossbar by goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
Yang Jun, playing in his first match of the tournament, got good cover from his defence in the opening half as Sun Xiang put in a good sliding challenge to prevent Timur Kapadze from taking a shot inside the six-yard area after 31 minutes, while Du Wei blocked a close-range effort by Maksim Shatskikh two minutes later.
Yang was called into action as the half closed as the custodian went down on one knee to stop a Shatskikh snap shot from just outside the area and then finding himself in the right position again to gather Djeparov’s curling effort just before the interval.
Striker Geynrikh came on at half-time for Ulugbek Bakaev as Inileyev looked to inject more urgency into his side and the China defence were kept on their toes in the early minutes of the second half as Sun Xiang and Zhang Yaokun alertly foiled Shatskikh’s attempts to force an opening.
Shao Jiayi twice tested Nesterov with a low shot from the edge of area six minutes before the hour mark and a free-kick from just outside the area on the hour but the Uzbek keeper was equal to the task on both occasions, diving low to turn aside both efforts.
It was the desperate Uzbeks who exerted much of the pressure and Shatskikh went close on four minutes later when his shot from the right of the China box fizzed across the face of Yang Jun’s goal.
Two minutes later, China went within inches of taking the lead as Zhang Shuai’s low cross from the right was met by an unmarked Wang Dong who rocked the underside of the crossbar from close range.
That miss would prove costly as the Uzbeks made the breakthrough with 18 minutes remaining as substitute Victor Karpenko curled in a free-kick into the area that was met by a glancing header from Shatskikh.
Yang Jun made a good stop on his line but the Uzbek striker followed up on his effort, crashing the ball into the back of the net to give the central Asians a precious lead.
The Uzbeks very nearly sealed the win two minutes later when Djeparov laid the ball off to an advancing Anzur Ismailov, who crashed his shot wide from the right edge of the box before Shatskikh put the ball into the net again shortly afterwards but was flagged offside.
However, the Uzbeks would claim a second four minutes from time when Karpenko curled in another free-kick that was just missed by the head of Shatskikh but met by Kapadze, who turned the ball past a helpless Yang.And deep into injury time, Geynrikh piled further misery on China as he fired past Yang on the rebound after his initial free-kick had been blocked by the wall.