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Tashkent: Kyrgyzstan will face Iran in the quarter-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship after they defeated Saudi Arabia 3-2 in a tense match at the Universal Stadium on Sunday.

Andrey Polkhovskiy’s side finished as Group A runners-up behind the hosts, Uzbekistan, in a match where Kyrgyzstan dominated throughout but struggled to kill off the contest until the final minutes.

After Saudi Arabia had opened the scoring in the first minute through Essam Sufyani, goals from Rustam Ermekov and Ilias Chotbaev sent the Kyrgyz into the break leading 2-1.

Maksadbek Alimov extended the lead in the 38th minute with Eihad Al Saad grabbing a late consolation for Saudi Arabia. 

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“I want to give thanks to my players, we were well prepared tonight,” said Kyrgyzstan coach Polkhovskiy. 

“We decided not to press from the start of the match, allowing them to come to us but then close down their space and deny them chances and strike after that.”

Knowing they needed to win to have any hope of reaching the quarter-finals, Saudi Arabia made the dream start when a freekick from the left by Fares Al Maleh was turned home by Sufyani with less than a minute played.

Kyrgyzstan hit back in the fourth minute after they were awarded a direct freekick just to the right of the Saudi goal and with the defence moving up that allowed the narrowest of margins for Ermekov to guide the ball home to make it 1-1.

Thereafter much of the remainder of the half became a battle of two sides looking to counter and Saudi Arabia twice missed good chances to take the lead.

Aroan Mubarak was the culprit on both occasions as he firstly blazed wide from a metre out and then saw another effort crash against the post.

The Saudis were made to pay for those misses as Ermekov fed Chotbaev who toe-poked his 16th minute shot past Talal Al Shehri to put Kyrgyzstan 2-1 up as the sides went to the break.

Much of the second half was punctuated by frequent turnovers with goalscoring chances few and far between although Saudi Arabia’s Faisal Al Sultan found himself one-on-one with the Kyrgyz goalkeeper on 25 minutes only to send his shot straight at Kirill Ermolov.

Thereafter Kyrgyzstan had a few half chances with Dilshat Kadyrov dragging his 32nd minute shot wide and Ermekov also failing to hit the target with a long-range effort with a two minutes remaining.

Kyrgyzstan finally managed to extend their lead in the 38th minute after Alimov swept his shot past the Saudi custodian and although they then managed to pull a late goal back following a power play where Al Saad scored, there was to be no further addition to the goal tally as Kyrgyzstan managed to hang on for the 3-2 win.

“We played a strong team but we had two players suspended and another two who were sick which meant we were undermanned and that hurt us,” said Saudi Arabia coach Abdullah Al Rashoud.

“Overall though, we are building for the future with a lot of young players and a new league that we have begun. We need to use the experience at this tournament to push towards a better future.”

Photo: AFC

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