Shootout win fires Uzbekistan past Korea Republic
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) -- Hosts Uzbekistan will face Iraq in Saturday’s final of the AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2023 after Ravshan Khaydarov’s side claimed a 3-1 penalty shootout victory over Korea Republic at Bunyodkor Stadium on Wednesday.
After 120 goalless minutes, Otabek Boymurodov saved penalties from Kang Seong-jin, Kang Sang-yoon and Kim Ji-soo to take Uzbekistan, who have never won the title, into the final for only the second time in their history.
The shoot-out win came at the end of a frustrating game for the hosts who, roared on by a capacity crowd at Bunyodkor Stadium, were unable to find a way through the well-drilled Korean defence until the lottery of spot-kicks determined the outcome.
The loss of Polatkhuja Kholdorkhonov to injury in the 20th minute blunted Uzbekistan’s attack and, without their first-choice striker, Khaydorov’s pre-match plea for his team to turn opportunities into goals went unheeded.
That lack of a cutting edge was apparent throughout, with Uzbekistan spending the majority of the game in the ascendency without turning their superiority into goals.
Korean goalkeeper Kim Joon-hong shovelled away a routine save after 17 minutes when Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov tried his luck with a first-time effort from 25 yards. At the other end, Hwang In-taek headed into the side-netting.
Uzbekistan’s Abbosbek Fayzullaev bent his free-kick over the defensive wall only to see his strike sail over the bar and the Pakhtakor forward continued to cause problems for the Koreans when he cut in from the left, but his attempt was well wide.
With two minutes left in the half the 19-year-old went closer still, again finding space inside the Korean penalty area and seeing his shot deflected narrowly wide of Kim Joon-hong’s left post.
The stalemate continued into the second period, even as the crowd grew increasingly vociferous.
Nodirbek Abdurazzokov’s shot on the turn flew over the bar moments after the restart, and the 18-year-old had another sight of goal moments before the hour mark. This time his strike from distance went wide.
So, too, did a similar effort from Abdirakhmatov as Uzbekistan continued to be denied by goalkeeper Kim. The Koreans were also labouring, with Choi Seok-hyun’s 57th minute header over the crossbar a rare attempt for Kim Eun-jung’s team.
With three minutes remaining many among the 33,977 inside Bunyodkor Stadium thought the home side had hit the winner as Shakhriyor Jabborov sprinted down the left, cutting inside to Shakhzod Akramov, but his shot could only bulge the side-netting.
The Uzbeks kept pushing, with Sherzod Esanov seeing his attempt on the turn blocked in a desperate effort to prevent the game from going to extra-time.
Both sides continued to squander opportunities with Esanov off-target before Kim denied Abdirakhmatov while Sung Jin-young, introduced midway through the second half, could only find Boymurodov’s hands with his strike.
Abdirakhmatov was then left frustrated by a full-stretch Kim in the dying seconds, taking the game to a shoot-out and Uzbekistan’s eventual win.