AFC Asian Cup 2011 semi-finalists Uzbekistan recorded a much-needed first win of the final round of qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ as Sanjar Tursunov's superb first-half volley secured a 1-0 win over Qatar on Tuesday.
Tursunov struck after 13 minutes at Al Sadd Stadium as Uzbekistan followed up back-to-back draws against Lebanon and Korea Republic to lift themselves off the bottom of Group B.
After struggling to breakdown a disciplined Uzbekistan side, Qatar suffered a second defeat of the final round campaign to leave Paulo Autuori's side with four points from four games at the halfway mark in the campaign.
"I'm extremely happy with the win as it was an impressive victory. It was good to get three important points and we must carry on with the same performance until the end of the qualifiers. We have now five points and we have good chances in the group," said Uzbekistan coach Mirdjalal Kasimov.
"The weather affected the two teams and the high temperature affected our players and therefore there were not many chances. We took advantage of the chance that we had and won the match which was our first win in this round and hopefully we can continue winning."
Uzbekistan were forced onto the back foot in the opening quarter of an hour but the visitors took the lead in spectacular fashion after 13 minutes when Akmal Shorakhmedov's cross was met by Tursunov close to the penalty spot and the Russia-based midfielder swivelled and expertly dispatched a first time volley into the bottom corner.
Visiting goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov was then called into action to push away Lawrence Quaye's stinging long-range strike just three minutes later as the home side looked for an instant response after being made to pay for failing to turn their positive start into a breakthrough.
The goal brought Uzbekistan more into the contest as the half progressed and the visitors came close to a second as a well-struck free-kick from captain Server Djeparov but the two-time AFC Player of the Year's effort was acrobatically deflected wide by Qatar striker Sebastian Soria with the ball spearing towards the far corner.
Qatar though, came close to an equaliser in first-half stoppage time as Wesam Rizik's flicked header looked destined for the top corner until Nesterov clawed the ball to safety.
With his side behind at the break, Qatar coach Autuori introduced Hamid Ismaeil and Hasan Al Haydos at half-time but only an alert piece of goalkeeper from Burhan Qasem stopped the home side falling further behind at the start of the second half as a deflected cross from Shorakhmedov threatened to sneak inside the near post.
Qatar continued to look for a response but they were becoming increasingly frustrated as the half progressed, while Uzbekistan enjoyed a considerable amount of comfortable possession although the effects of the heat started to show on the visitors midway through the second 45 minutes.
Autuori used his last substitution to introduce Magid Mohamed with 14 minutes remaining but it was Uzbekistan who looked the more likely to add a second before Qatar substitute Al Haydos drilled an effort just wide with eight minutes remaining with Nesterov sent scrambling across the face of his goal.
Qatar frantically pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages but they were unable to create a genuine threat to Nesterov with Uzbekistan coach Kasimov making a number of timely late substitutions to bolster his charges in the energy-sapping conditions.
"I'm proud of the players and the spirit that they have shown, but I'm very disappointed with the defeat," said Qatar coach Autuori. "Now we must forget this defeat and carry on with our campaign as we still have a chance. Uzbekistan are a strong team and we missed a lot of chances and eventually the win went to Uzbekistan."