Tajikistan match tactical acumen with heart and courage to outwit & continue Asian dream
Australia won the first AFC Asian Cup 2023 RO 16 match
Tajikistan defeated UAE on penalties in their AFC Asian Cup Round of 16 match, moving them to the Quarterfinals in an incredible football spectacle at the Education City stadium in Al Rayyan. Al-Abayd was unable to match Tajikistan’s tactical adaptability in their thrilling victory over the world #64, despite the ball possession statistics appearing to tell a very different tale. Tajikistan ranked 106th in the world, played an incredible brand of football.
In the early stages of the game, Tajikistan attempted a physical game plan, but they quickly recovered on the flanks in response to Al-Abayd’s quick counterattacks. After they became comfortable with their acumen, both teams quickly switched to a passing style of play. UAE had a promising attack in the ninth minute, but they lost it when the ball flew over the goalpost. UAE were forced to make an early substitution in the 15th minute when their number #18, Abdellah Ramadan, was taken off the field for failing to mount a challenge. Abdulla Saimeen, their number #14, arrived at the park in lieu of the latter.
In the 30th minute, the Persian Lions made it count from the set piece after their #6, Vakhdat Hanonov netted the whipped-in corner home. Their lead could have been doubled in the 36th minute but a deflected cross from the right flank lacked the final touch.
The 37th minute of the game saw an attempt from UAE’s #3, Zayed Sultan which went straight into Tajikistan’s goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov’s safe hands. In the 45th minute, they had an opportunity to draw levels in the first half after being awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Still, it got wasted with Yahya Alghassani firing into the wall. An additional seven minutes of injury time was given which saw plenty of positive moves from both sides with none of them being able to make it count.
UAE started using both of their defenders in the second half as they took control of opposing Tajikistan’s overload strategy. Their brilliant passing and quick counterattacks, however, were ineffective because their star forward, Alisher Dzhalilov, appeared out of rhythm and missed a number of opportunities. Rustam Soirov replaced an injured Shahrom Samiev for the Persian Lions in the 72nd minute.
The eagerly anticipated equalizer was scored by the UAE in the final moments of the match. After the allotted ninety minutes of play concluded with a 1-1 draw, 30 more minutes of play were scheduled. Although both sides played energetic, attacking football, none of them could find the crucial victory. When it came down to a battle of the spot kicks, Tajikistan won after they were able to convert all five of their attempts. When the Tajikistan captain stepped up to save Caio’s attempt from the spot, UAE’s hopes were dashed. The final scorer for Tajikistan, Alisher Shukurov, appears to be a 21-year-old young gun from the Persian Lions’ artillery.
1-1 (Tajikistan won 6-4 on penalties)
Vakhdat Hanonov (30’), Khalifa Al Hammadi (90’ + 5’)
Penalty shootout scorers
Tajikistan – Akhtam Nazarov, Vakhdat Hanonov, Ekhson Pandzshanbe, Rustam Soirov, Alisher Shukurov
UAE – Abdulla Idrees, Fabio Lima, Ali Saleh
UAE – Caio Canedo
This match will be remembered as a testament to the fairytale that is being penned down by the Persian Lions in the ongoing edition of the AFC Asian Cup which happens to be their first-ever tournament fuelled by tactical acumen along with heart and courage.
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