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Sergeev powers Uzbekistan past UAE

Dubai: A second-half double from Igor Sergeev made all the difference as Uzbekistan defeated United Arab Emirates 2-1 in an international friendly at Dubai’s Rashid Stadium on Monday.

With star striker Eldor Shomurodov absent, Sergeev made the most of his opportunity, scoring in the 48th and 86th minutes before UAE debutant Sebastián Tagliabúe pulled back a goal from the penalty spot in the dying minutes.

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Looking to bounce back from Thursday’s home defeat to Islamic Republic of Iran, Uzbekistan started strongly, forcing Emirati goalkeeper Khalid Eisa into a save from the UAE-based Otabek Shukurov within two minutes.

While Uzbekistan had been in action as recently as last week, UAE’s senior team were appearing for the first time since 2019, and the first time at all under Colombian boss Jorge Luis Pinto.

Pinto handed starting international debuts to naturalised UAE Pro League stars Tagliabúe and Fábio Lima, but it was Mohammed Marzooq who came closest to scoring for the hosts when his close-range header flashed wide in the 35th minute.

Sergeev had also threatened in the opening 45 minutes, and he put the visitors ahead three minutes after the interval, seizing on an errant touch from Khamis Ismail before calmly stroking the ball past Eisa from six yards.

The scorer of 17 league goals last season and 12 so far this campaign, the Pakhtakor frontman then hammered in Uzbekistan’s second with four minutes remaining, benefitting from a terrific dummy from club teammate Jaloliddin Masharipov before beating Eisa from just outside the penalty area.

Shukurov forced Eisa into a smart save which prevented Uzbekistan from going three ahead in the 89th minute, but Tagliabúe gave Pinto’s charges a semblance of hope when he punished a handball offence by Igor Golban from the penalty spot in the first minute of added time

However, the 35-year-old’s debut goal served only as consolation for the hosts, with Sergeev’s Player of the Match display enough to seal an away win for Uzbekistan.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association

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