Al-Ain (United Arab Emirates) (AFP) – Mathew Ryan insisted he was no “mind-reader” after he saved two penalties against Uzbekistan to put Asian Cup holders Australia into the quarter-finals on Monday.
Australia had the better of a goalless 120 minutes before the Brighton ‘keeper stopped spot-kicks from Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Marat Bikmaev in a tense last-16 shoot-out that the Aussies won 4-2.
Ryan stood up to Tukhtakhujaev’s penalty, which he drilled down the middle, and also guessed correctly when Bikmaev shot low and to his right to keep their title defence alive.
The 26-year-old Premier League stopper said he had studied Uzbekistan’s penalty-takers before the game — but he also claimed that his vital saves were just “luck”.
“I’m not a mind-reader. How would I possibly know?” he said, adding that he was happy to bask in a rare moment as the team’s hero.
“It feels pretty good. As a goalkeeper, it’s obviously the pinnacle for us. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and all the sacrifices and hard work,” said Ryan.
However, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said Ryan deserved his success after putting in extra work behind the scenes.
“That’s why he’s in the Premier League and that’s why he’s such a high-class goalkeeper,” said Arnold.
“His two saves in the penalty shoot-out showed what a top goalkeeper he is.
“Maty does a lot of homework himself and when Maty goes into a game he ticks all boxes and he did exceptionally well again tonight.”
– Determined Australia –
Uzbekistan were on top in the first half but they managed just one shot on target all match — Eldor Shomurodov’s one-on-one which was also instinctively stopped by Ryan.
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 having a shot blocked before Grant twice missed opportunities with his head.
Hertha Berlin forward Mathew Leckie, back from a hamstring injury, was introduced for his first appearance of the tournament and had an immediate impact.
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 the two teams went into extra time, the influential Celtic man curled another one just past the upright.
However, neither side could get the winner and after Ryan saved Uzbekistan’s second and fourth penalties, it was left to Leckie to hammer in the decisive kick.
The only sour note for the holders was Rogic picking up a harsh yellow card in the first half which will rule him out of the quarter-final against either the host nation United Arab Emirates or Kyrgyzstan.
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