Uzbekistan returned to the international arena without their recognised stars but still managed a 2-1 win over neighbours Tajikistan in a friendly at Lokomotiv Stadium on Thursday.
Murod Khalmukhamedov's strike ultimately decided the contest, with the defender converting a 67th-minute penalty kick after Uzbek debutant Shahzodbek Ubaydullayev’s earlier strike had been cancelled out by a Zoir Juraboev equaliser.
Played behind closed doors, the match was the first senior international fixture held anywhere in Asia since March.
In the first meeting between the neighbours since 2011, it was the entirely home-based Uzbekistan who took the early advantage, with Metallurg Bekabad striker Ubaydullayev making the most of a chance in the national team when he rifled a terrific 33rd-minute drive into Shokhrukh Qirgizboev’s bottom corner from 20 yards.
Tajikistan were also without some of their overseas-based stars but they remained competitive throughout, and found a way back into the tie shortly after half-time.
It was Juraboev, himself a former Metallurg player, who found the equaliser for Usmon Toshev’s side, punishing some sloppy defending following a set-piece to head home from six yards in the 48th minute.
That allowed the visitors to dream of a first win against Uzbekistan since the 1990s, but it wasn’t to be, with Khalmukhamedov converting from 12 yards to seal victory for the hosts.
In a statistic somewhat reflective of the experimental nature of the clash, Khalmukhamedov’s spot-kick meant all three goals on the night were scored by players who hadn’t previously found the back of the net at senior international level.
Earlier on Tuesday, Tajikistan hosted Uzbekistan in a U-19 friendly international, with Uzbekistan winning the match thanks to a single goal from Ulugbek Khoshimov.
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