Super-sub Sidorov writes his name in Uzbekistan football history
Changzhou: Little did Andrey Sidorov imagine the impact he would have on the AFC U23 Championship 2018 final when he was asked by coach Ravshan Khaydarov to go on against Vietnam on Saturday.
There were only two minutes of extra time left on the clock and whatever extra the referee would award in stoppage time but Sidorov was ready to play his part.
It looked likely that penalties would be needed to decide the outcome and with Sidorov having a fresh pair of legs in a final played in wintry conditions, he would surely have been tasked with taking a spot-kick.
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Sidorov, however, was destined to play a more dramatic role and scored the winner with a delightful header in what was just about his first touch of the ball.
Uzbekistan were 2-1 up and as Sidorov reeled away in celebration, his teammates and the Uzbekistan bench erupted in celebrations.
The title was surely won as Vietnam, despite their ability to come back into matches, had run out of time.
The final whistle was blown moments later and Sidorov was mobbed by his teammates.
“The moment I scored the goal, I felt really happy,” said the 22-year-old, still overwhelmed and filled with excitement, after the match.
“It was a tough game, and I’m glad we won.”
The elements had made it an extremely challenging match but Uzbekistan deserved victory as they had the better share of possession and chances.
“I didn’t think I would have the impact I had but when the ball was floated towards the six-yard box, I just reacted.
“I couldn’t believe that it landed in the back of the net.”
It was a goal that broke Vietnamese hearts but one that brought great joy to Uzbekistan and their fans, be it in the stadium or back home.
Though outnumbered by the Vietnamese supporters in the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center stands, the Uzbekistan fans made sure they were heard and Sidorov paid tribute to them.
“It means everything to me to win. I can’t really explain how I feel but I’m happy to have brought happiness to our country.
“For the people supporting us, we thank you for your support.”