AFC Asian Cup 2019: How brave Uzbekistan outwitted Oman?
Written by: Ajay A K
The White Wolves' attacking substitutions even after conceding a second half equalizer paid rich dividends for head coach Hector Cuper.
When Eldor Shomurodov slotted the ball in at the near post, the nation of Uzbekistan must have leapt in joy. The White Wolves managed to come out on top after putting in a resilient and strong defensive display against an Oman side that were trying to prove that their recent Arabian Gulf Cup triumph was not a fluke. But, more than the resilience shown by the Hector Cuper-managed side, plaudits should be given rightfully to the way they carried themselves after conceding the equalizer.
The Reds dominated the play with Mohsin Al-Khaldi running the show from the middle of the park for Oman. However, Odil Ahmedov’s spectacular free-kick gave Uzbekistan the lead against the run of play and Oman were left having to chase the game. Although, Uzbekistan took the lead into the break, Oman’s persistence finally paid off when Muhsen Al Ghassani’s left-footed shot found the bottom right corner.
Watch: Uzbekistan 2-1 Oman highlights
At that moment, Oman had pegged back Uzbekistan, with the White Wolves having to rely on counter-attacks to produce meaningful forays. Oman looked likely to get all three points and it seemed that Uzbekistan would have to setup a defensive wall to get a point from the fixture and with two substitutions left, it felt like Cuper would use them for defensive reinforcements. However, the Argentine introduced a striker and a midfielder, an uncharacteristic move for a team who were second-best for the majority of the game.
But, the bold move produced immediate returns, with substitute striker Eldor Shomurodov scoring what would turn out to be the eventual winner for Cuper’s side. However, the thing that stood out the most in that hard-fought victory was Uzbekistan’s thought process. The Central Asians, despite being the second-best side for a major part of the game, decided to go for the win rather than park the bus and gain a point. It speaks volumes of the mentality and the toughness of the players.
Credit should also be given to tactician Cuper. The Uzbek boss managed his substitutions excellently and showed immense trust in his side to come away with all three points. His decision to make attacking changes was rewarded immediately when Shomurodov scored, only two minutes after coming on. The players repaid the trust the manager showed in them and put in an excellent defensive display after the goal, to make a statement to the rest of the tournament.
The White Wolves managed to shut down Oman completely, limiting the West Asian side’s chances despite being down to ten men in injury-time. The grit and decisiveness shown by the team are worthy of praise and with the talent in their ranks, they will be looking to put up a strong showing in the tournament and take the game to the opposition no matter how strong they are. This, along with a coach that knows how to get the best from his players, both mentally and physically, make Uzbekistan a team to be wary of.
Published: Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:21 AM IST