Oman pays the price for wasting chances
A defeat is a disappointing experience but it becomes more painful when a team loses a game it should have won. It was precisely the case of Gulf Cup winner, Oman, on Wednesday as it lost 1-2 to Uzbekistan in their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group F opening clash at the Sharjah Stadium.
A match the Red Warriors, coached by Dutchman Pim Verbeek, dominated and created more goal-scoring chances than their rivals, ended with the Uzbeks pocketing valuable three points with Eldor Shomurodov's goal with five minutes remaining for the final whistle.
A wasteful Oman will rue missing the opportunities that came its way and with the next match against four-time winners Japan, things are certainly going to be uphill for Verbeek and his men to advance to the next round. The win took Uzbekistan to second in the standings behind Japan, who defeated Turkmenistan 3-2 in their opening tie earlier on Wednesday.
Later in his post-match comments, Verbeek said, “We deserved at least a point. We were better overall in the match and I am pleased with my boys' display though the result did not go our way.”
“Uzbekistan got three chances and they scored two out of them. Our players need to recover and play with the same spirit and attitude against Japan on Sunday. I am looking forward to play against the best Asian team and we hope to do well,” said the Dutchman.
Oman, which is making its fourth appearance in the Asian Cup, began on a solid note and took its experienced rival by surprise.
The Gulf Cup winner had the White Wolves on the back foot for the first 30 minutes and had it not been for the brilliance of Uzbek goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov, Oman would have been ahead by couple of goals by then.
Oman made several attacking forays and in the 14th minute, came close to scoring through captain Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu', whose header was saved by Nesterov.
Verbeek's men grew in confidence as they pegged the Uzbeks in their own half and in the 25th minute, Saad Suhail's cross from the right flank sailed for Raed Saleh but the midfielder, who plays for Malta's Valletta FC, failed to connect.
Then, against the run of play, Hector Cuper’s side stunningly found the back of the net through captain Odil Ahmedov’s free-kick from 25 yards out. The Uzbekistan captain, who plays for Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG, curled his effort past a diving Oman goalkeeper Faiz al Rusheidi.
It was end-to-end action after that as both sides picked up the tempo with Oman almost finding the equaliser in first half added time.
Nesterov, however, was at the top of his game once again when he blocked defender Mohammed al Musallami’s low drive as Uzbekistan took a 1-0 lead into the break. Verbeek’s men came racing off the blocks at the start of the second half as they went in search of the equaliser.
Oman came close to scoring when Ali al Busaidi sent a cross, which found Saad Suhail, who wasted the opportunity.
Two minutes later, the defender was in goal-scoring range but saw his effort blocked.
The Red Warriors threw everything they had at Uzbekistan and wasted another chance when Mohsin Jawhar hit his free-kick over the bar as the Central Asians stayed firm at the back.
Oman finally beat Nesterov in the 72nd minute after substitute Muhsen al Ghassani, who came on for Khalid al Hajri, beat the offside trap to score past the Uzbekistan shot-stopper.
Uzbekistan, however, was undeterred by the Oman equaliser and its positive response saw Shomurodov scoring with a left-footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom left corner in the 85th minute to seal an emphatic win.
The White Wolves, however, suffered a blow when Egor Krimets was sent off deep in stoppage time.