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Uzbekistan, Malaysia warm up with wins

Tashkent: Uzbekistan continued their resurgence under head coach Vadim Abramov, registering a 3-1 friendly win over Kyrgyz Republic at Pakhtakor Stadium on Saturday.

Uzbekistan 3-1 Kyrgyz Republic

Both sides used the match to prepare for key Asian Qualifiers in the week ahead, with Uzbekistan to host Saudi Arabia on Thursday, while Kyrgyz Republic are set to face Japan in Bishkek.

Pakhtakor duo Igor Sergeev and Dostonbek Khamdanov made the most of their familiar surrounds to find the back of the net before Jamshid Iskanderov slotted an excellent third for Uzbekistan, with Farkhat Musabkeov getting his name on the scoresheet for the visitors, who remain winless in eight attempts against their neighbours.

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With star striker Eldor Shumurodov absent due to Russian Premier League commitments, Sergeev led the line for Uzbekistan, and it took just 11 minutes for him to make his presence felt, slamming the ball into the back of the net from just inches out after a cross from debutant Abror Ismoilov evaded everyone including Kyrgyz Republic goalkeeper Pavel Matiash.

Sergeev nearly doubled his tally when he fired over the crossbar after a neat one-two with Sanjar Kodirkulov, but it was the visitors who were next to score, with Musabekov credited for their 30th-minute equaliser.

The Kyrgyz Republic reply came following an Edgar Bernhardt corner kick, with Musabekov’s initial strike on goal adjudged to have narrowly crossed the goal line before it was slammed into the net for good measure by a lurking Akram Umarov.

Alexander Krestinin’s side were level at half-time, but Uzbekistan powered ahead in the second period, retaking the lead through a fierce Khamdanov strike which followed a perfectly weighted pass from Odil Ahmedov, and the result was settled once and for all when Iskanderov supplied the game’s best goal with 10 minutes remaining, finding the corner of Matiash’s net with a beautifully struck right-footed effort from 20 yards.

Uzbekistan’s win takes them to three successive victories since Abramov returned as manager in September, a return to form which appears to be perfectly timed ahead the forthcoming home fixtures against Saudi Arabia and Palestine.

In addition to their match against Japan, Kyrgyz Republic will face Tajikistan at home on Thursday as the Akshumkar continue their bid to qualify for a first-ever FIFA World Cup Finals appearance.

Malaysia 1-0 Tajikistan

A 72nd-minute sizzler from Malaysian star Safawi Rasid sealed a 1-0 friendly international over 10-man Tajikistan at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Saturday.

Fresh from a series of outstanding performances in Johor Darul Ta’zim’s successful Malaysia Cup run, the 22-year-old took his sparking form to the international stage, deciding the match as a substitute with a memorable goal which delighted the home crowd.

Safawi’s strike came 25 minutes after Tajikistan were reduced to 10 men, with goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov shown a red card for handling the ball outside the penalty area.

With key Asian Qualifiers to come in the days ahead, players on both sides looked to impress on a typically humid Kuala Lumpur evening, with chances coming at either end of the pitch in an even first half.

Manuchehr Dzhalilov and Amirbek Juraboev both came close for the visitors in the scoreless opening period, but the match swung sharply in the 46th minute when Yaitmov saw a straight red card after losing his bearings and handling the ball outside the box with Syahmi Safari in close company.

If Yatimov’s dismissal was the game’s first turning point, the second was the introduction of Safawi just 12 minutes later, with the JDT star returning to the scene of his Cup heroics a week earlier.

Malaysian football’s man of the moment didn’t disappoint, scoring a wonderful solo goal which included him skilfully dribbling both outside and inside Tajikistan captain Akhtam Nazrov before sending a brilliant strike into the far corner of the net.

The goal was enough for 158th-ranked Malaysia to take the scalp of a side 42 places above them on the FIFA rankings, giving them the perfect confidence boost ahead of the coming home matches against Thailand and Indonesia.

Tajikistan, on the other hand, have two away fixtures in the next 10 days, with Usmon Toshev’s side to visit Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic in their next two Asian Qualifiers matches.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association, Football Association of Malaysia

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