AFC Asian Cup

Hosts advance as holders breathe sigh of relief

Players of Australia celebrate winning the penalty shootout
© Getty Images
  • Japan edge Saudi Arabia to advance to quarter-finals
  • Mathew Ryan the hero for Australia in shoot-out win over Uzbekistan
  • UAE defeat unlucky debutants Kyrgyz Republic in five-goal thriller

Four-time champions Japan showed defensive discipline against Saudi Arabia to continue their journey in the AFC Asian Cup, holders Australia breathed a sigh of relief after advancing on penalties against Uzbekistan and hosts United Arab Emirates needed extra time to defeat debutants Kyrgyz Republic 3-2. reviews the second day of Round of 16 action at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.

Japan 1-0 Saudi Arabia
Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah

While Japan were lacking in clear-cut opportunities in the opening period, they ensured their strike-rate was second to none. One shot on target was all they needed to go ahead, as Takehiro Tomiyasu towered to head home his first Samurai Blue goal. Saudi Arabia were limited largely to efforts from distance, with Hatan Bahbri causing Suhuichi Gonda’s blood pressure to rise with a superb effort that ended up inches wide.

With Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side going all out to try to force the issue after the break, Japan were afforded opportunities on the break though, much to their frustration, their clinical nature deserted them. This saw the Green Falcons look most likely to strike back, but Bahbri and Ali Hadi Albulayhi spurned their clearest chances to level as the Japanese backline stood firm to progress in the face of consistent pressure, teeing up an intriguing quarter-final test against Vietnam.

Australia 0-0 Uzbekistan (4-2 pens)
Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain

The reigning champions took their time to wake up in this last-16 encounter and Uzbekistan so nearly made them pay. Eldor Shomurodov came close to bagging his fifth of the tournament, having burst through the Socceroos rearguard, but Mathew Ryan covered his angles well. Javokhir Sidikov’s effort from distance left the keeper as a spectator, only for the strike to narrowly whistle past the upright.

After the break Australia rediscovered their zest, rocking the Uzbeks onto the back foot having survived the earlier onslaught. The introduction of Mathew Leckie saw Graham Arnold’s side add a dose of incision to their output, but extra time followed as they were unable to pick the lock. With neither side fashioning a clear opportunity in the final 30 minutes, it was left to Ryan to pull off a pair of saves in the shoot-out – his first for the national side – before Leckie tucked home the winning spot-kick.

United Arab Emirates 3-2 Kyrgyz Republic
Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

The best was saved for last as the hosts faced a tricky test against impressive debutants Kyrgyz Republic in a dramatic back-and-forth contest. Khamis Esmaeel opened the scoring with his header just under a quarter of an hour into the match, however, Mirlan Murzaev equalised for the Central Asians to score their first ever knockout stage goal in the competition's history.

Ali Mabkhout put the hosts back in front midway through the second half, beating Kyrgyz goalkeeper Kutman Kadyrbekov. Mabkhout has now been involved in nine goals in his ten Asian Cup games for UAE since the start of the 2015 tournament. Just when it looked like UAE had the result settled, Tursunali Rustamov had other ideas as he equalised with a header in stoppage time to send the match to extra time.

Powerful forward Ahmed Khalil converted the winning goal from the penalty spot just before the extra-time break to deny the unlucky Kyrgyz Republic who struck the crossbar with 15 seconds remaining. United Arab Emirates now face a quarter-final meeting against Australia, with the latter triumphing when the pair met at the semi-final stage four years ago.

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