AFC U23 Championship: Champions Uzbekistan denied by Iran

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Reigning champions Uzbekistan’s quest to retain their AFC U23 Championship crown got off to a mediocre start on Thursday as they were held 1-1 by Iran in Group C.

The Uzbeks were initially on course for victory at the Tinsulanon Stadium when captain Islomjon Kobilov fired them ahead from the penalty spot, after Bobir Abdixolikov have been clipped inside the area by a clumsy challenge from Mojtaba Najjarian.

Islomjon Kobilov nets from the spot to give defending champs Uzbekistan lead against Iran

But, two minutes before the hour mark, Iran grabbed a goal that ultimately earned them a share of the spoils as a long throw from Matin Karimzadeh caused all sorts of problems for Uzbekistan as they failed to fully clear their lines.

Iran’s persistence pay off as Reza Dehghani fires in equalizer against Uzbekistan

The loose ball fell to Reza Dehghani and, although he had two initial efforts blocked, he refused to give in and inadvertently forced the ball through to the six-yard box, where he showed the most determination to reach it first and poke a shot past Abduvakhid Nematov to force the draw.

UZBEKISTAN: Abduvakhid Nematov, Khojiakbar Alijonov, Islomjon Kobilov, Khusniddin Alikulov, Ilkhomjon Alianov, Abdulla Abdullaev, Azizjon Ganiev, Nurillo Tukhtasinov (Oybek Bozorov 67’), Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, Sanjar Kodirkulov (Islom Kenjabaev 86’), Bobir Abdixolikov.

IRAN: Habib Far Abbasi, Mojtaba Najjarian, Aref Aghasi, Omid Noorafkan, Matin Karimzadeh, Mohammad Mohebi (Jafar Salmani 84’), Mehdi Mehdikhani, Reza Dehghani (Mohammad Khodabandelou 90+1’), Ali Shojaei (Mehdi Ghaedi 46’), Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, Reza Shekari.