Uzbekistan made India look like a school team, beating it 3-0 in their AFC Asian Cup 2023 Group B game at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Thursday.
This was the first win for the Central Asia side in this edition of the tournament and keeps it second in the standings and on the driving seat to qualify for the knockouts.
India, on the other hand, was left chasing shadows in most parts of the game, and lost deservedly, leaving its chances of progressing past the group stage to a miracle.
The side, playing in a formation different from the one it has usually played in – in a 4-3-3 shape instead of 4-2-3-1 – looked vulnerable right from kick-off as Uzbeks rained hellfire, with shots one after the other. Within five minutes, they were 1-0 up. Sherzod Nasrullaev’s cross from the left found Otabek Shukurov, who headed it to Abbosbek Fayzullaev. The 22-year-old star of the Under-20 AFC Asian Cup 2023 effortlessly struck it past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu into the bottom-right corner.
Fourteen minutes later, Igor Sergeev overlapped with Fayzullaev, with the former scoring an international goal on foreign soil after three years. Initially, a back-tracking Akash Mishra intercepted Fayzullaev’s cross from the left. But as the Mumbai City full-back’s failed clearance ricocheted off the woodwork, Sergeev arrived to sound the death knell.
India tried to claw back into the game, producing two clear chances at the brink of half-time. Mahesh Singh Naorem took a shot from outside the box while Sunil Chhetri tried a header from an Anirudh Thapa corner-kick.
But neither helped the cause, with the first one saved by Utkir Yusupov and the latter flying over the goal. Almost immediately, Uzbekistan attacked against the run of play, with Nasrullaev putting the contest to bed before the break.
India resumed with fresh zeal in the second half, with Rahul Bheke almost scoring in the 72nd minute, with a header. But Yusupov’s reflexes got the better of him, with a fingertip push over the goal.
In the other game in this group, Australia rode on Jackson Irvine’s winner to beat Syria 1-0 and qualify for the knockouts, at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium earlier in the day.
The results: India 0 lost to Uzbekistan 3 (Fayzullaev 4, Sergeev 18, Nasrullaev 45+4); Syria 0 lost to Australia 1 (Irvine 60).
Source website: www.thehindu.com