KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (Reuters) - Uzbekistan knocked Group C favourites China out of the Asian Cup with a stunning 3-0 upset victory at the Shah Alam Stadium on Wednesday.
All three goals came via free kicks as Dynamo Kiev striker
Maksim Shatskikh, midfielder Timur Kapadze and veteran Alexander
Geynrikh struck late in the second half to break the hearts of
the 2004 runners-up.
Iran finished top of the group on seven points after their
2-0 win over co-hosts Malaysia earlier on Wednesday, with
Uzbekistan second on six points. China finished with four points
and Malaysia lost all three matches.
China needed only a draw to qualify after a 5-1 victory over
Malaysia and a 2-2 draw with Iran. Uzbekistan, who thrashed
Malaysia 5-0 after losing 2-1 to Iran, needed to win to reach
the last eight.
The match was marred by a serious neck injury to Chinese
forward Han Peng who was taken to hospital after a collision
with Uzbek goalkeeper Hayrulla Karimov in the final minutes.
Uzbekistan travel to Jakarta to face Saudi Arabia in the
quarter-finals on Sunday. Iran stay in Malaysia to take on South
Uzbek coach Rauf Inileyev told reporters: 'We spent a lot of
time on free kicks because we felt that China were weak in that
part of their game. In fact, our whole game-plan worked very
Chinese coach Zhu Guanghu, blaming defeat on absence of
injured goalkeeper Li Leilei and defender Li Weifeng, is
determined to carry on.
'I will not leave football,' he said. 'The coaching staff
and players will learn from this defeat and move forward.'
After a dour first half, Uzbekistan stunned the Chinese fans
by taking the lead in the 72nd minute.
Substitute Victor Karpenko floated a free kick into the box
and Shatskikh rose to head goalwards. Chinese stand-in keeper
Yang Jun failed to hold on and Shatskikh volleyed in the rebound
for his third goal of the competition.
Uzbekistan made it 2-0 on 86 minutes. Karpenko aimed his
25-yard effort straight at Yang, who was helpless as the ball
bounced off his legs and Kapadze ran in to score.
Geynrikh sealed victory with a goal deep into injury time.
His free kick from 25 yards came off the wall but Geynrikh
collected the rebound to shoot through a crowd of players and
into the net.