Qantas Joeys defeated by Uzbekistan in semi-finals

Qantas Joeys defeated by Uzbekistan in semi-finals of AFC U-16 Championship

The Qantas Joeys were defeated 1-2 by Uzbekistan in the semi-finals AFC U-16 Championship played in Tashkent last night.

Uzbekistan-s captain Abbosbek Makhstaliev scored twice, including the winner in the last minute of regulation time, to knock the Qantas Joeys out of the tournament, although a goal to Riley Woodcock just before half-time gave the Australians a fighting chance throughout the second half.

With Qantas Joeys captain Connor Chapman and fellow defender Corey Brown suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, Head Coach Jan Versleijen handed Jesse Makarounas the armband for the match and started Sam Chapple and Riley Woodcock in their place.

Spurred on by a large parochial home crowd, Uzbekistan applied pressure to the Qantas Joeys from the opening whistle and had the run of play for the first 15 minutes.

On the quarter-hour, Luke Remington received a yellow card for a high challenge on the edge of box. Abbosbek Makhstaliev stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and neatly curled his shot around the Qantas Joeys wall to the left of goal keeper Paul Izzo, who made a valiant dive but to no avail, giving the home team an early lead.

Izzo made up for the effort by denying Makhstaliev with some superb goal keeping in the 19th and 28th minute marks with point blank saves under immense pressure.

The Qantas Joeys were rewarded for their determination and resilience when they netted an equaliser just before half time in bizarre circumstances following a corner from Riley Woodcock. Woodcock swung his left-footed corner into the box which the Uzbekistan goal keeper Ganisher Kholmurodov should have made a regulation save, instead he ended up pushing the ball into his own goal.

The second half saw Uzbekistan continue to apply the pressure, giving the Qantas Joeys very little and creating a number of chances which again tested Izzo.

As the half progressed, the Qantas Joeys came back into the match and started to create opportunities of their own.

The Qantas Joeys best chance came in the 75th minute from a Milos Degenek corner which was hit to the far post for Giancarlo Gallifuoco to head back into the middle. Hayden Morton got his foot to the ball but unfortunately, with the keeper out of position and an open goal, his shot went wide.

Two minutes later, Uzbekistan could have taken the lead again after Makhstaliev headed over Izzo who came off his line to clear a ball. Fortunately, Riley Woodcock scrambled back towards goal and was able to desperately clear the ball off the goal line.

Uzbekistan did finally score the winner in the 90th minute following a long-range shot from Asiljon Mansuirov-s which Izzo cleared straight to Makhstaliev. Makhstaliev took one touch and then calmly slotted home to give his team the victory that put them into the final.

After the match Qantas Joeys Head Coach Jan Versleijen was proud of his team-s effort through the match and the tournament and acknowledged the performance of Uzbekistan.

“Although the result didn-t go our way tonight, I am very proud of what we have achieved throughout this tournament,” said Versleijen.

“We had to make a few changes today due to suspensions and injuries, but he boys gave one-hundred percent effort and never gave up.

“They (Uzbekistan) tried to press from the start and did not let us play our own game and they did that very well. It was a team result from them as they kept the pressure on us and they kept giving Makhstaliev the opportunities.

“Uzbekistan is a real football country with so many people that support their team, If Uzbekistan play like they did today in front of the same crowd, which will probably be even bigger for the final, then they have a very good chance to win this championship.

“We will now learn from this experience and start our preparations for next year-s FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico,” concluded Versleijen.

In the other semi-final DPR Korea scored twice in the first half to eventually defeat Japan 2-1.

Uzbekistan will now face DPR Korea in the final of the AFC U-16 Championship on Sunday 7 November (kick-off 2:00pm local, 8.00pm AEDT).