Iran exit after Uzbekistan draw

Iran Uzbekistan

AFC - The Islamic Republic of Iran’s run in the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2022 came to an end after playing to a 1-1 draw against Uzbekistan at the Markaziy Stadium on Tuesday.

Uzbekistan scored in the first half from Jurakuziyev Otabek and IR Iran levelled through Arya Yousefi but could not find the winner as they made their exit from the Group Stage with Uzbekistan finishing as Group A winners followed by history-makers Turkmenistan, who fought back from two goals down to hold Qatar 2-2.

With top spot in Group A secured, head coach Timur Kapadze made 11 changes from the 6-0 win against Qatar and with the partisan crowd of 19,876 cheering them on, Uzbekistan did not disappoint.

Jiyanov Ruslanbek had the first sight on goal, running in between two defenders to latch on to a perfectly weighted ball before releasing a shot from a tight angle that rattled the bar inside the first five minutes.

On the opposite end, Iran needed a win to breathe life into their quarter-final hopes and the first chance fell to Mahdi Hashemnezhad, who found space on the right but his shot across the face of goal sailed just wide in the 17th minute.

Uzbekistan’s new faces had a point to prove and it was Otabek who sent the crowd into huge celebrations when he headed home Diyor Kholmatov’s curling cross with the outstretched Iran goalkeeper Parsa Jafari beaten.

Minutes later Otabek Jurakuziyev had his arms in the air in disappointment, missing his chance to double their lead from the right after finding the side netting.

Iran goalkeeper Parsa was called into action just after the half hour mark, saving headers from Jurakuziyev and Jiyanov to deny the home side from extending their lead.

Mehdi Hashemnejad had a rare chance before half-time but his header from the centre of the box was well saved by Uzbekistan goalkeeper Vladimir Nazarov while at the other end, the lively Jiyanov fired his attempt over the bar.

Chants of ‘Uzbekistan’ echoed in the stadium as the home players marched into the dressing room the happier side while Iran needed to find answers to overcome a shaky first half.

Iran Uzbekistan

Mehdi Mahdavikia's charges came out in the second half with more purpose, with Mohammadmahdi Ahmadi crossing to targetman Yousefi, who failed to connect.

Iran were again on the attack in the 55th minute when captain Yasin Salmani made a marauding run into the box, beating three defenders only to be denied by Nazarov’s outstretched leg while the rebound by Mohammadhossein Eslami was saved by the Uzbekistan custodian.

Uzbekistan’s defence was finally breached two minutes after the hour mark, Mahdi Hashemnezhad’s pinpoint cross into the box finding Yousefi who guided the ball into the back of the net, leaving Nazrov with no chance.

The goal gave IR Iran a lifeline but they were nearly caught on the counter-attack when FC Nasaf player Khusain Norchaev latched onto a loose ball inside the box but could only find the side netting.

Norchaev missed a glorious chance in the 79th minute, needing only to beat Parsa but his curling shot to the bottom right corner was well saved. 
There was late drama in the tie with Amirali Sadeghi glancing his header against the post while Khoshimov Ulugbek fired his shot from inside the box straight at Parsa.

As the clock ticked, Iran failed to find the winning goal as their campaign came to an end while hosts Uzbekistan will look forward to their quarter-final against Iraq.

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