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Qatar’s Marcone Amaral (rights) fights for the ball with Uzbekistan’s Ulugbek Bakaev in Doha yesterday.
BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Uzbekistan yesterday rode their luck on a first-half strike to beat hosts Qatar 1-0 in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
Russia-based Sanjar Tursunov deflected a long cross from Akmal Shorakhmedov with amazing accuracy in the 13th minute to help Uzbekistan open their account in Group A.
The home loss left Paulo Autuori-coached Qatar with just 4 points from as many matches. Uzbekistan, who struggled in the heat, now have five points from four matches.
Korea, Iran and Lebanon are the three other sides in the group.
Only two teams will go to the next stage of qualifying. Qatar have four matches to go in the rest of the qualifying phase that will end next summer.
Qatar dominated play in phases but once the Uzbekistan side settled down - around the 10th minute mark - the visitors wasted little time in scoring what turned out to be the only goal of the match.
It was a superb away win from Uzbekistan who played under pressure at a packed Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. Uzbekistan’s win was indebted to two fine saves from Ignatiy Nesterov and a brilliant volley from Tursunov.
In the second minute of the Group A clash - that kicked-off at 3:25pm local time - Qatari striker Sebastian Soria broke free of his marker close to the Uzbekistan box but his lob went wide of team-mate Khalfan Ibrahim who failed to convert from close range.
As the match progressed, Qatar clearly showed early intent with their brave attacks but lack of coordination in passing saw those opportunities go waste.
In the eighth minute, striker Ibrahim curled in a swinging corner but Soria’s deflection went past the far goalpost with the Uzbekistan goalkeeper Nesterov well beaten in flight.
Around the 10th-minute mark, Qatar dominated play as visiting Uzbekistan, coached Mirjalol Qosimov, struggled for ball possession.
However, Uzbekistan, after settling down, broke the deadlock with a well-timed move in the 13th minute.
Shorakhmedov chipped in a long chip cross for Turnusov who volleyed first time from the edge of the box.
Turnusov, who went to the right of goalkeeper Qasim Burhan - celebrated his goal with team-mates on the bench.
A couple of minutes later, Marcone Amaral brought down Ulugbek Bakaev. The referee - who was to later irk the home fans with his poor decisions - promptly ordered a free kick.
The free-kick was deflected away by Qatar’s Soria, a move that resulted in a corner which was wasted by the Uzbek side.
In the 23rd minute, Qatar’s Mohammed Razzaq headed with his back to the Uzbek goal but the ball went high before falling on the roof of the net, just centimetres past the crossbar.
Nine minutes from the first-half whistle, Soria was tripped inside the box but Chinese referee Hai Tan referee allowed play to continue, causing much dismay among the Qatari team and fans.
A few seconds later, striker Ibrahim was tripped inside the Uzbekistan box but the Chinese referee once again rejected call for a penalty.
Akmal - who had brought down Soria a few seconds earlier, was guilty for the second time by bringing down Ibrahim, but the referee once again ordered play to continue.
With tempers rising, Qatar’s Lawrence Quaye was booked for bringing down Server Djeparov closer to the half-line area.
Seven minutes from the first-half whistle, Qatar captain and midfielder Wisam Rizq broke free with a solo effort charging into the Uzbekistan box but team-mate Talal Al Bloushi produced a feeble push that was easily saved by the goalkeeper Nesterov.
In the dying seconds of the first half, Rizq produced a back-headed deflection on a looping free-kick but the ball was parried away by Uzbekistan goalkeeper Nesterov with a desperate lunge to break the Qatari hearts.
Qatar benched Quaye and Ibrahim Ghanim at the start of the second half, bringing in influential strikers Hassan Al Haydos and Hamid Ismael.
At the one-hour mark, Soria jumped high for a deflection from close range but the tall Qatari striker lost his balance after being pulled down by an Uzbekistan defender.
In the 75th minute, Autuori went for the last throw of the dice, replacing Razzaq with striker Magid Mohammed. In the 80th minute, Qatar’s Al Haydos went solo with a shot from outside the Uzbekistan box but the low-range ball skidded past the left goalpost.
Uzbekistan easily played time out, leaving hosts wondering how to gathering momentum ahead of next month’s qualifying match against Lebanon at the same venue.
In a rare occurrence, Chinese referee Hai sensibly stopped the game in the 26th minute to allow the players to get some water, a move he repeated in the 73rd. THE PENINSULA