2020 AFC U23 Championship: D’Agostino strikes as Australia pip Uzbekistan to Olympics

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Australia have booked their place at the Olympic Games after finishing third at the 2020 AFC U23 Championship with a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in Saturday’s playoff at the Rajamangala Stadium.

Although the Uzbeks dominated proceedings in the first half, Nicholas D’Agostino handed Australia the lead four minutes after the restart before their opponents’ hopes were all but extinguished when they had Oybek Bozorov sent off shortly before the hour mark.

As the third-placed side of the competition, the Australians will now join Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia – who meet in Sunday’s final – and hosts Japan at the Olympics later this year.

AFC U23 Championship Highlights – Australia vs Uzbekistan

Having been completely dominated by the South Koreans in Wednesday’s semi-final, the Olyroos were looking for a better display on Saturday and had the ball in the back of the net as early as the fourth minute.

Zach Duncan’s low cross was deflected and looped up in the air paving the way for D’Agostino to outjump Abduvakhid Nematov and nod home, although the strike was ruled out after the striker was adjudged to have fouled the Uzbekistan goalkeeper.

Jasurbek Yakhshiboev was first to threaten the Australian goal.

But it did not take long for Uzbekistan to find their rhythm with Jasurbek Yakhshiboev emerging as their main threat.

He met Bobir Abdixolikov’s excellent cross with a firm header in the 11th minute to force Tom Glover into a smart save, before driving at the opposition defence six minutes later before lashing a 20-yard drive just wide of the far post.

Bobir Abdixolikov was a real livewire for Uzbekistan.

Abdixolikov was next to threaten the Olyroos goal in the 36th minute as he was played in down the left, keeping his composure to cut inside two recovering defenders although his shot was well blocked by Dylan Ryan.

Nonetheless, while it looked like the Uzbeks were in the ascendancy, it was Australia who struck first in the 49th minute when he picked up possession 35 yards out from goal, skipping past a couple of challenges before clinically finishing past Nematov into the bottom corner.

Ten minutes later, things got from bad to worse for the Uzbeks when they were reduced to ten men after Bozorov – who had only been on the field for six minutes – was shown a straight red after catching Duncan high with a studs-up challenge.

Despite the numerical deficit, Uzbekistan did try their best to get back into the contest and keep alive their hopes of reaching the Olympics, although Australia were always in control of proceedings and ultimately held on for a vital win.

AUSTRALIA: Thomas Glover, Thomas Deng, Tass Mourdoukoutas, Dylan Ryan, Alex Gersbach, Ramy Najjarine (Denis Genreau 46’), Keanu Baccus, Dylan Ryan, Reno Piscopo (Ben Folami 86’), Daniel Bouman (Al Hassan Toure 65’), Nicholas D’Agostino. 

UZBEKISTAN: Abduvakhid Nematov, Khojiakbar Alijonov, Islomjon Kobilov, Khusniddin Alikulov, Ilkhomjon Alianov (Doston Ibragimov 75’), Abdulla Abdullaev, Azizjon Ganiev, Jasurbek Yakhshiboev, Nurillo Tukhtasinov (Oybek Bozorov 53’), Bobir Abdixolikov, Mirjakhon Mirakhmadov (Sharof Mukhitdinov 61’).