Uzbekistan coach Rauf Inileyev felt that fortune was on his team’s side on Wednesday as they defeated China 3-0 at Shah Alam Stadium to reach the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup for a second consecutive time.
The central Asian Side needed to win to progress to the last eight and they did so thanks to goals in the final 18 minutes by Maksim Shatskikh, Timur Kapadze and Alexander Geynrikh.
The win denied China a place in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time since 1980 and helped the Uzbeks to secure a quarter-final clash against Saudi Arabia in Jakarta on Sunday.
However, Inileyev felt that the final score did not tell the whole story of a competitive game.
"It was a very interesting game today although the result may not have been a fair reflection on what took place," said the Uzbek coach.
"China are a very good team but I think we were very lucky to get our goals and win the game."
Inileyev said that the team had devised a game plan which they successfully implemented.
"I discussed the game with the players beforehand and we decided that we should play with caution in the first half and try to get a feel for our opponents," he explained.
"We then worked out how to play against China in the second half and we played according to our strategy.
"We were feeling okay physically and we played a lot better in the second half. In football, there may be minor things that can affect the game and we knew that China would get more tired in the second half because they had a day’s less rest."
Inileyev felt that the introduction of striker Geynrikh at half-time and Victor Karpenko just after the hour mark were crucial to his team’s success.
"We knew we had to win to progress so we just tried to attack and score goals and fortunately we made the right substitutions at the right time," he added.
"I decided to change (Ulugbek) Bakaev at half-time because I was concerned that he already had a yellow card and I didn’t want him to get sent-off.
"It proved to be a good choice to bring on Geynrikh but I think that we just had a lot of luck with our substitutions today. "
While Geynrikh supported Shatskikh well up front and netted his side’s final goal, Karpenko played an even bigger role, setting up both of his side’s first two goals with well delivered free-kicks into the area.
"I spoke to Karpenko before the game and I knew that he could help us during the game," said Inileyev.
"He played very well and his introduction in the second half helped us to improve our game"
Playmaker Server Djeparov was named man of the match and paid tribute to the large contingent of Uzbek fans who gave his team a huge lift with their support throughout the game.
"It was very hard for us to play on this field but we overcame all of our difficulties and won the game," said Djeparov.
"Our fans supported us in a fantastic way today and we were delighted to be able to give them the win that they wanted.
"It gave us great pleasure to see our fans supporting us in Malaysia and gave us the strength to go out, to score and to win."