AFC U-16: Uzbekistan edges Yemen to enter last eight

Uzbekistan made it two wins out of two after beating a plucky Yemen side with a solitary second half goal and stay top of Group D in the AFC U-16 Championships in India.

Uzbekistan and Yemen in action in a Group D encounter.   -  Special Arrangement

Asadbek Sobirjonov’s second-half winner ensured Uzbekistan maintained its 100% record at the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Yemen in Group D on Tuesday.

A goalless first half at GMC Stadium saw Uzbekistan start the brighter but Yemen end strongly, before Sobirjonov finally opened the scoring midway through the second half. Yemen almost equalised in the final 10 minutes when substitute Ahmed Maher headed against the woodwork but Uzbekistan survived and will now win Group D if it defeats DPR Korea on Friday.

Uzbekistan came out the blocks firing and could have opened the scoring as early as the first minute. Sobirjonov broke into the penalty area from the left before cutting back to Rasul Yuldoshov but the midfielder saw his effort from close in saved at point-blank range by goalkeeper Aiman Al Suraihi.

But after a shaky start Yemen gradually came back into the tie and the energetic Yousuf Kandash fired narrowly over Abduvakhid Nematov’s crossbar on 20 minutes.

The West Asians then had the ball in the back of the net on 34 minutes when captain Amir Saleh’s mishit strike from distance was controlled on the edge of the area by Kandash, who turned and placed into the bottom right corner only to see his goal chalked off for offside.

And two minutes before the interval Waleed Aswad’s free-kick from the right touchline clipped the top of the bar on the way over.

Amen Al Sunaini’s team came close yet again a minute later as Kandash’s drilled strike from distance took a wicked deflection off defender Ikhtiyor Kholdorov but the wrong-footed Abduvakhid Nematov somehow pulled off a stunning one-handed save as the score remained level at the break.

Uzbekistan substitute Shukhrat Nematov cut in on to his left foot and shot goalwards from outside the area three minutes after the restart but Al Suraihi was equal to the challenge, before the same player blazed wide with only the ‘keeper to beat five minutes later.

The Central Asians were now in firm control and Doniyor Abdumannopov’s powerfully driven strike from distance skimmed the woodwork soon after as the opening goal seemed inevitable.

Yemen had a chance of its own in the 65th when it burst forward on the counter-attack but Aswad blasted over from inside the left side of the penalty area after being picked out by Kandash.

The Uzbeks did break the deadlock on 68 minutes, though, as Abdumannopov’s delicate chipped pass found Sobirjonov and the midfielder kept his composure 10 yards from goal to side-foot home on the bounce.

But Yemen came agonisingly close to claiming a point as Maher headed Muneef Jassar’s cross onto the bar before heading his follow-up effort over as Uzbekistan held out to make it two wins from two.

Uzbekistan coach Timur Alimkhodjayev, "I liked the performance of Yemen today. We have faced them before and won 5-2, but today they showed a totally different side and have made progress. Even so, we were able to win. Today, the defence was better than against Thailand in our first game, but they still made mistakes and gave Yemen chances. It wasn't that we were surprised by Yemen, though, as we watched them on Matchday One and they did what we expected. Our goalkeeper did what he should do today, he's there to save us in such moments. He just did his job."

Yemen coach Amen Al Sunaini, "We realised from the beginning it was a going to be a tough game. This was a very important match as whoever won would have more chance to qualify for the quarter-finals. Uzbekistan is a very difficult team with strong players, but even so we missed a lot of chances and we thought maybe we could have finished this game 1-1. A draw would have been a fair result, the same as against DPR Korea as we missed penalty in that game. Overall, it was an improved performance from the one against DPR Korea. We have seen a lot of progress since then."

A hat-trick from Kye Tam saw DPR Korea join the Uzbeks in quarterfinals after its 4-1 win over Thailand in the other Group D game, which eliminated the Southeast Asians.

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