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Third Place Play-off: D'Agostino strike sends Australia to the Olympics

Bangkok: Nicholas D’Agostino’s brilliant solo effort two minutes into the second half sent Australia on their way to the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday as Graham Arnold’s side earned a 1-0 win over 10-man Uzbekistan in the third place play-off at the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020.

D’Agostino’s strike at the end of a slaloming run gave the Olyroos the lead after a tepid first half showing and Australia’s first appearance at the Olympics since 2008 was effectively confirmed when Uzbekistan's Oybek Bozorov was sent off with little over half an hour remaining.

The win means Australia qualify alongside Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be played in July and August and where they will join hosts Japan in representing Asia at the 16-nation tournament.

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D’Agostino’s goal was the second time he had the ball in the net on Saturday, the Perth Glory man thinking he had scored with five minutes on the clock only for his header to be ruled out by referee Mohammed Hassan for a foul on goalkeeper Abduvakhid Nematov.

That was the closest Arnold’s team would come in the opening 45 minutes of the game as the Uzbeks fashioned the more likely opportunities of the first half.

Jasurbek Yakhshiboev squandered a pair of chances to put his side in front, heading straight at Thomas Glover from eight yards out before failing to put enough bend on his shot from the edge of area after a rapid break left the Australian defence desperately chasing back.

Yakhshiboev continued to cause problems for the Olyroos, with his run through the middle opening up the Australians before Thomas Deng’s outstretched leg blocked the FC AGMK winger’s shot. The ball looped up to land at the feet of Nurillo Tukhtasinov but he could only send his shot high over the bar.

The Uzbeks were to rue those missed opportunities within two minutes of the restart as D’Agostino showed his individual ability to put Australia in front. Picking the ball up 35 yards from goal, the forward drove past two opposing defenders before giving himself room to side foot the ball into the bottom corner.

Uzbekistan’s hopes of finding a way back into the game were dealt a decisive blow just before the hour mark when, six minutes after coming off the bench, substitute Bozorov was shown a straight red card by referee Hassan for a dangerous challenge on Zachary Duncan.

With one player less there was no way back for Uzbekistan, even if Sharof Mukhitdinov sent his free-kick narrowly wide of Glover’s goal as Australia held on to record a win which booked their ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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