Rostov striker Eldor Shomurodov struck five minutes from the end to secure Uzbekistan a 2-1 win over Oman in their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Group F match at the Sharjah Stadium on Wednesday.
The win took Uzbekistan to second in the standings behind Japan, who defeated Turkmenistan 3-2 in their opening tie earlier on Wednesday.
Oman started aggressively, as they tested the Uzbekistan defence, which were shaky throughout the encounter, with several surging runs and in the 14th minute, came close to scoring through Ahmed Al Mahaijri’s header which goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov brilliantly saved.
Oman’s confidence grew as they pegged the White Wolves in their own half and in the 25th minute, Saad Al Mukhaini’s delivery from the right flank sailed invitingly for Raed Saleh but the forward 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, picked up his 18th goal international goal after he curled his effort past goalkeeper Faiyz 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 Mohammed Al Musallami’s low drive as Uzbekistan took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Pim 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 an inviting cross which found Saad Al Mukhaini who wasted the opportunity. Two minutes later, the defender was in goal-scoring range but saw his effort blocked.
The Reds threw everything they had at Uzbekistan and wasted another chance when Mohsin Al Khaldi 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, were undeterred by the Oman equaliser and their 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.
Uzbekistan, however, suffered a blow when Egor Krimets was sent off deep in stoppage time.
Up next for Uzbekistan are Turkmenistan on Sunday, while Oman will look to keep their campaign on track against Japan on the same day.