Uzbekistan stole the match from China in the race for a 2007 Asian Cup quarterfinal place as they saw off the Eastern Asians 3 – 0 in Group A’s last encounter at the Shah Alam Stadium on Wednesday.
|Uzbekistan's Vitaliy Denisov holds off China's striker Shao Jiayi|
The Uzbeks took a late lead when skipper Maksim Shatskikh blasted home a rebound from his own header in the 72nd minute before Timur Kapadze capitalized on an error from keeper Yang Jun to double the lead.
Substitute striker Alexander Geynrikh finished from another rebound in injury time to shatter China’s dream of the knock-out stages.
The result means Uzbekistan finished second in Group C behind Iran and will face Saudi Arabia in the quarterfinals.
China, who only needed a draw to progress, started the game cautiously and created their 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 begin 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 tipped over the Uzbek crossbar by goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov.
Yang Jun, playing in his first match of the tournament, got good cover from his defense 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 when the half closed as the custodian went down on one knee to stop a Shatskikh snap shot from just outside the area and then found himself in the right position again to gather Djeparov’s curling effort just before the interval.
Striker Geynrikh came on at halftime for Ulugbek Bakaev as Inileyev looked to inject more urgency into his side and the China defense 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 the keeper’s 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 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 was 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.