In an evenly-matched encounter, Honduras ran out 4-3 winners over Uzbekistan in the teams’ Group F opener in Christchurch.
The game had entertainment: goals and gifts in equal measure, which contributed to a thrilling 90 minutes. The difference was efficiency. Honduras took their chances when it mattered.
It was they who had the best possible start to the game when Jhow Benavidez gave them the lead after just four minutes with a well-executed free-kick. The Honduran captain curled the ball over the wall and into the top-left corner with Sarvar Karimov rooted to the spot.
Sixteen minutes later, the Central Americans’ advantage was doubled. Deybi Flores found Bryan Rochez who did well to hold off his marker and prod the ball past the advancing keeper. The Hondurans were delighted, as well they might have been, as their two chances had yielded two goals.
In contrast, the young Uzbeks were cutting frustrated figures but their efforts were rewarded in the 31st minute when Otabek Shukurov threaded a perfectly weighted ball for Dostonbek Khamdamov to run on to. The Bunyodkor midfielder showed great composure to fire a low shot into the bottom corner.
The Asian side were unfortunate not to draw themselves level six minutes before the break when their captain Javokhir Sokhibov crashed a powerful shot against the face of the crossbar from the right touchline.
Half-time came at the right moment for Honduras and it was they who scored the first goal of the second half. Kevin Alvarez firing another direct free-kick past Karimov.
From then on, it was Uzbekistan who did all the pressing. Sokhibov and Eldor Shomurodov both had good chances, but missed the target as time ticked away for the Asians.
However, they pulled one back 11 minutes from time when Eldor Shomurodo was left with the simplest of chances after some great work by Odiljon Hamrobekov and Zabikhillo Urinboev.
The grandstand finish was set-up and Uzbekistan could have got their equaliser when Shomurodov’s curling shot from 12 yards was well saved by Roberto Lopez.
The sucker punch came in the second minute of additional time when Rochez outpaced Ibrokhim Abdullaev to afford him a one-on-one opportunity which the forward took well.
Yet, Uzbekistan kept going and were given a consolation through Uriboev with almost the last action of the match, but it was too little, too late.