Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Goalkeeper Mat Ryan brilliantly saved two penalties as defending champions Australia won a dramatic shoot-out with Uzbekistan to reach the Asian Cup quarter-finals on Monday.
Australia had the better of a goalless 120 minutes before Brighton’s Ryan stopped spot-kicks from Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev in a tense shoot-out that finished 4-2.
Hertha Berlin’s Mathew Leckie, returning from a hamstring injury, buried the decisive kick to put the Socceroos into a clash against either hosts UAE or Kyrgyzstan.
Uzbekistan were well on top in the first half against a pedestrian Australia who managed just one shot on target before the break, an innocuous effort from Aziz Behich.
Central defender Trent Sainsbury, back from suspension, will have nightmares about how he was shrugged off by Eldor Shomurodov for a one-on-one chance saved by Ryan’s arm.
Javokhir Sidikov fizzed one wide of the upright after Jaloliddin Masharipov all too easily evaded the joint challenge of Rhyan Grant and Awer Mabil.
But Australia seemed determined to mix it up after the break and as they finally clicked, Jamie Maclaren had a shot blocked before Grant twice had opportunities with his head.
Leckie then made his long-awaited first appearance of the tournament, and he had an immediate impact in the forward line.
Leckie was part of a move that left Maclaren inches away from the opener, and then after dribbling into the box he was only denied by a smart stop from Ignatiy Nesterov.
Rogic’s sharp shot was turned around the post by Nesterov and after they went into extra time, the influential Celtic man curled another one just past the upright.
However, neither side could get the winner and ultimately Ryan was the difference as he stood up to Tukhtakhujaev’s kick straight down the middle, and dived low for Bikmaev’s.
But in a sour note for the holders, Rogic picked up a harsh yellow card in the first half which will rule him out of the quarter-final.
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