DOHA: Uzbekistan advanced to their third AFC U23 Asian Cup™ final in four editions after defeating Indonesia 2-0 in their Qatar 2024 semi-final at the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium.

The victory also confirmed Uzbekistan’s spot in the Olympics while Indonesia will have to win the third-place playoff on Thursday if they are to book a ticket to Paris 2024.

A bold Timur Kapadze made six replacements to the team that beat Saudi Arabia in the quarter-finals, including matchwinner Khusain Norchaev, while Shin Tae-yong made three – with Ramadhan Sananta starting in place of the suspended Rafael Struick.

Uzbekistan, however, quickly got into their stride with Abbosbek Fayzullaev dictating play in the centre with his marker Ivar Jenner struggling to cope with the guile and movement of the CSKA Moscow midfielder.

Two early chances were created from the right with Alisher Odilov forcing a reflex save from Ernando Ari at his near post, which was followed by Ulugbek Khoshimov’s driving run that ended up with a dragged shot just wide of the post.

Indonesia’s goalmouth led a charmed life when midfielder Abdurauf Buriev struck a powerful shot from distance in the 30th minute which beat Ernando but not the crossbar but crucially for the Southeast Asians, Uzbekistan could not make their dominance count.

Kapadze sent on Jasurbek Jaloliddinov and Norchaev in the second half, with Uzbekistan continuing to rain shots at Indonesia’s goal with efforts from Zafarmurod Abdirakhmatov, Odilov and Jaloliddinov.

Against the run of play, Indonesia looked to have broken the deadlock in the 61st minute after Muhammad Ferrari jabbed the ball home following a melee, only for the goal to be ruled out as Ramadhan had been offside in the buildup.

Having survived the scare, Uzbekistan took the lead seven minutes later when Muhammadkodir Hamraliev produced an inch perfect cross from the right that was turned in by Norchaev.

Uzbekistan pushed hard for a second goal, striking the post through attempts by Fayzullaev and Norchaev before Umarali Rakhmonaliev put his shot well over after being put under pressure by Ferrarri.

Indonesia’s hopes of a comeback suffered a setback in the 84th minute after referee Shen Yinhao sent off Rizky Ridho for a high foot challenge on Jaloliddinov following a VAR review.

From the ensuing free-kick, Uzbekistan doubled their lead after Ernando could only parry Jaloliddinov’s powerfully struck effort, with Abdukhodir Khusanov’s header from the rebound hitting the post but in the scramble to clear the ball, Pratama Arhan and his keeper got in each other’s way as the Indonesian left-back sent the ball into the net.

Key to the Uzbeks’ victory once again was defensive midfielder Abdurauf Buriev, who picked up the man-of-the-match award for a second time, having done so in their opening game against Malaysia.

The 21-year-old, who donned the armband for the night in place of usual captain Jasurbek Jaloliddinov, was delighted with their Olympic achievement but at the same time urged them to remain focused.

“There was no pressure on me by being the captain, it gave me some additional motivation and I focused on the game and obtaining the victory,” the Olympic Tashkent player said.

“It is a very big moment in my career (to qualify for the Olympics) but I cannot say anything (more) because it was a very emotional match and we still have one game to prepare for.”

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