AFC U23 Championships

Uzbeks Continue Dominant Campaign with Controversial Win Over Indonesia

Uzbekistan secured their place in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup final for the third time in four editions after defeating Indonesia 2-0 in their Qatar 2024 semi-final at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium on Monday. Despite the Uzbeks’ superior performance, Indonesia managed to keep up with their more illustrious opponents throughout most of the match, with three controversial decisions from the referee ending up costing the Garuda Muda victory.

The win not only propelled Uzbekistan to the final but also guaranteed their spot in the Olympics in a dominant campaign that saw them score fourteen goals and conceding none, while Indonesia now faces the task of winning the third-place playoff on Thursday to secure a ticket to Paris 2024.

In a bold move, Timur Kapadze made six changes to the team that triumphed over Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals, including matchwinner Khusain Norchaev. On the other hand, Shin Tae-yong made three alterations, with Ramadhan Sananta stepping in for the suspended Rafael Struick.

Uzbekistan asserted their dominance early on, with Abbosbek Fayzullaev controlling the midfield and orchestrating play effectively. Despite Indonesia’s resilience, Uzbekistan created numerous chances, with Alisher Odilov and Ulugbek Khoshimov threatening from the right flank.

Indonesia breathed a sigh of relief when Abdurauf Buriev’s powerful long-range effort rattled the crossbar, but Uzbekistan failed to capitalize on their dominance in the first half.

The first controversial decision from referee Shen Yinhao occurred in the 27th minute, when Witan Sulaeman was clipped just outside the area by an Uzbekistan defender. The Chinese referee initially awarded a free-kick to Indonesia, however video assistant referee Sivakorn Pu-udom advised Shen to consult the VAR for a possible penalty. However, much to the shock of the Indonesians, Pu-udom advised Shen to give Uzbekistan possession, seeing that the contact between Witan and the Uzbek defender wasn’t a foul at all.

After the break, Uzbekistan continued their onslaught, with substitutes Jasurbek Jaloliddinov and Norchaev adding to the attacking threat. However, against the run of play, Indonesia thought they had taken the lead through Muhammad Ferrari, only for Shen and Pu-udom to give their second controversial decision of the match as, following a VAR review, the duo decided to chalk the goal off due to Sananta being millimeters offside in the buildup.

Uzbekistan finally broke the deadlock in the 68th minute when Muhammadkodir Hamraliev delivered a precise cross from the right, which Norchaev converted with a clinical finish, the two Uzbek players taking great advantage of the Indonesian players mentally switching-off due to the disallowed goal moments earlier.

Despite hitting the post twice through Fayzullaev and Norchaev, Uzbekistan doubled their lead in the 84th minute. A free-kick from Jaloliddinov was parried by Ernando, and in the ensuing scramble, Abdukhodir Khusanov’s header struck the woodwork before Pratama Arhan inadvertently turned the ball into his own net under pressure from his goalkeeper.

Indonesia’s hopes of a comeback were further dampened when both Shen and Pu-udom had their third and final controversial decision of the night, when an accidental challenge from captain Rizky Ridho – where he had inadvertently kicked Jaloliddinov’s groin while clearing the ball away – was punished with a straight red card following yet another VAR review.