Uzbekistan’s hopes of participating in their first ever World Cup were extinguished after failing to claim victory in their must win final Asian World Cup qualifying group match against Bahrain losing to a controversial second half goal.
Bahrain 1-0 Uzbekistan
Bahrain will claim third place in the group and book their spot in the September Asian playoff against the side that finishes third in the other group. The winner of that match will go forward to challenge New Zealand for a place in South Africa next summer.
Uzbekistan came into the game knowing that only a win by two clear goals would be enough for them to prolong their World Cup Qualifying campaign to a playoff. The visitors started brightly by controlling possession and forcing Bahrain back, who started like a team knowing they had a two goal lead over their opponents - uncertain as to whether to push up or drop back.
However, the tone of the match was changed in the 13th minute when lively forward Ismaeel Abdulallahatif was fed through from the left flank and shot across the face of goal just missing the far post.
That move seemed to give Bahrain some confidence and it was Abdullahatif again who broke through after a great combination with Mohammed Hubail. Abdullahatif'a control just let him down at the final moment, giving Karimov in the Uzbek goal a chance to smother the shot.
Bahrain continued to press forward, and really should have had the lead just before the half-hour mark when a diving header from Hubail flew over the bar and landed on the roof of the net.
Uzbekistan managed a response of sort with Andreev, the best performing Uzbek forward down the left, getting a cross into the box that was nearly fumbled into Tadjiev's path by Bahrain keeper Sayed Jaffer. A few moments later Tadjiev managed to get a low shot away, which was comfortably handled by the Bahrain keeper, and that was the best chance the Uzbek side could muster up in the first half.
Indeed, it was Bahrain, who finished the half with their tails up when Hubail nearly raced on to a long ball into the Uzbek penalty area, beating the keeper to the loose ball, but poking his effort wide of the target.
Uzbekistan started the second half brightly, and initially looked like they may have the necessary fire-power to break through when a ball was whipped in from the left flank causing mayhem in the Bahrain area forcing Hussain Baba into desperate action to clear his lines from underneath his own bar.
But the pace of the first half was soon re-established by Bahrain, who squandered another excellent chance when a deep cross found Hubail in space at the far post. He though missed his chance sending the ball behind with a weak finish.
It took until the 74th minute for Bahrain to finally get their noses into a deserved lead, although the goal came with a degree of controversy after the free-kick was awarded to the home team when Ismailov appeared to bundle into Abdoulla Abdi. Replays showed contact was minimal, but half-time substitute Mohmood Abdulrahman stepped up to slam the ball home.
Moments later and the simmering Uzbek tempers boiled over when Ismailov, still clearly aggrieved at the award of the free-kick, appeared to stamp on Abdulla Omar. In the resulting melee of players, Bahrain defender Abdulla Marzoog had to be restrained by team-mates for seeking his own retribution, but was sent off anyway by the referee, who didn’t even book Ismailov for his part in the ugly confrontation.
Uzbekhistan nearly had an academic equaliser late on when Ahmedov dragged a shot wide after some neat build-up play, but it was all inconsequential, as Bahrain held on with ten-men to claim a place in the Asian Playoffs.
They will find out their opponents following the result of the Saudi Arabia-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea match, which will decide whether it is one of them, or Iran, who face Bahrain in the playoffs later in the year.
Walter Townsend, Goal.com