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Tribune News Network

AL WAKRAH: Impressive Uzbekistan secured their place in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024quarter-finals with a 5-0 win over Kuwait at the Al Janoub Stadium on Saturday.

The victory meant Vietnam were also assured of their knockout stage spot, with the two sides to meet on Tuesday to decide the Group C winners in a repeat of the 2018 final.

Uzbekistan asserted themselves from the get-go, quickly creating opportunities with Khusain Norchaev heading wide in the fourth minute, before Ulugbek Khoshimov forced a save from Iraq goalkeeper Abdulrahman Al Fadhli eight minutes later.

Already under heavy pressure, Kuwait's situation became more challenging when head coach Emilio Peixe was forced to make a substitution in the 20th minute, with defender Abdulrahman Karam stretchered off due to injury.

Kuwait, however, continued to defend resolutely as Uzbekistan resorted to launching long-range crosses into the area but neither Norchaev nor Khoshimov could get their headers on target in the 22nd and 27th minutes respectively.

Uzbekistan continued to probe and the 2018 champions’ persistence paid off in the 32nd minute when Alibek Davronov dived to head home Muhammadkodir Hamraliev’s cross to break the deadlock.

Kuwait's Mohsen Ghareeb's reckless challenge on Jasurbek Jaloliddinov outside the box almost proved costly in the 41st minute as the Uzbekistan captain responded with a solid free-kick, but goalkeeper Al Fadhil produced a fine save to keep the West Asians in the game heading into the break.

Uzbekistan, however, extended their lead just four minutes into the second half when another sublime Jaloliddinov free-kick was tapped home by Hamraliev.

With their tournament hopes hanging by a thread, Kuwait began to push forward only for Uzbekistan to further widen their lead following a counterattack in the 55th minute which saw Jaloliddinov supplying yet another assist with Hojimat Erkinov converting.

Kuwait were dealt another blow in the 71st minute when substitute Hamad Al Taweel was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Abdurauf Buriev following a VAR review.

Uzbekistan kept pushing and earned a penalty in the 86th minute after Diyor Jiyanov's strike hit Khaled Al Fadhli's arm with Diyor Kholmatov slotting home.

Norchaev then missed from the penalty spot in added time after Saleh Al Mehtab brought down Erkinov in the box but the forward redeemed himself just moments later, finishing Zafarmurod Abdirahmatov’s pass from close range.

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