Goalkeeper Maty Ryan earned champions Australia a quarterfinal place in the Asian Cup on Monday as he made two saves in a shootout to see off Uzbekistan with a 4-2 win on penalties after 120 goalless minutes.
The Brighton & Hove Albion keeper Ryan denied Islom Tukhtakhujaev and Dostonbek Khamdamov to leave Mathew Leckie to score the winning spot-kick and take the Socceroos into the last eight.
The result was no less than the Australians deserved after dominating the second half and most of extra time in the 0-0 stalemate as they kept their hopes of a second successive title on track.
It was Uzbekistan, however, who had made the early running and Ryan was called into action just 10 minutes into the game as Eldor Shomurodov burst past Trent Sainsbury to force the Premier League keeper to block his close-range shot.
Australia carried little threat, with Aziz Behich registering his side’s only attempt on goal in the opening 45 minutes when he tried his luck from outside the area, but Ignatiy Nesterov had few problems.
Javokhir Sidikov flashed his long-range attempt narrowly wide of Ryan’s goal and Khamdamov should have done better when he was found by Shomurodov with time and space.
The Socceroos pressed in the second half, with Rhyan Grant heading over from an acute angle when Milos Degenek’s diagonal ball found him unmarked behind the Uzbekistan defence having moments earlier sent another header into the hands of Nesterov.
Uzbekistan’s goalkeeper was now seeing all the action, and he was forced to deny Leckie nine minutes after the Hertha Berlin winger came off the bench before pushing Tom Rogic’s deflected strike from outside the area wide for a corner.
Australia continued to be frustrated when the game went into extra time with Chris Ikonomidis, Leckie and Rogic all going close before the added period drifted towards penalties.
In the shootout, Behich saw his penalty saved by Nesterov before Tukhtakhujaev’s attempt was kept out by Ryan, and the Australia keeper denied Khamdamov in the penultimate round to leave Leckie to confirm the win.
A first-half goal from Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to send Japan into the Asian Cup quarterfinals for the eighth consecutive time after a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
The Saudis, looking to end a 23-year drought since their third continental title, paid the price for failing to convert their chances as four-time champions the Samurai Blue progressed to face Vietnam on Thursday.
Japan went in front in the 20th minute when defender Tomiyasu rose above a Saudi defender to head home from a corner.
Saudi Arabia dictated play in both halves but were unable to finish. Midfielder Salem Aldawsari had a golden opportunity to put them Green Falcons level in the 62nd minute but shot over.
Moments later, defender Ali Hadi Albulayhi guided the ball over the bar with a free header.
Japan, who claimed their last title in 2011, had won all three of their previous matches to finish top of their group, while Saudi Arabia finished second in theirs with wins over North Korea and Lebanon.
United Arab Emirates‘ Ahmed Khalil converted an extra-time penalty to join Japan and Australia in the quarters on the day, with a 3-2 win over Kyrgyz Republic, keeping alive their hopes of landing the continental title on home soil.
The substitute striker’s 102nd minute spot kick had enough power to find the net despite the goalkeeper getting a hand on it and put the hosts through to a last-eight meeting with holders Australia in a rematch of the 2015 semifinal.
After an early goal from Khamis Esmaeel was cancelled out by Kyrgyz Republic’s Mirlan Murzaev, it looked like Ali Mabkhout’s 64th minute strike was going to settle the match for the hosts until Tursunali Rustamov’s dramatic stoppage-time equaliser.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s side know they will need to lift their game considerably to achieve their dream of winning the title back at the same stadium on Feb. 1 after making such heavy work of their Asian Cup debutants.
A small 17,784 crowd turned out on an unusually cool evening in the Emirati capital, but the vast Zayed Sports City arena was brought to life in the 14th minute when the hosts took the lead.
Ismail Matar swung a corner into the box, defender Khalifa Mubarak rose well to head the ball goalwards and Esmaeel nodded it home from close range.
Kyrgyz Republic were level 12 minutes later when Akhlidin Israilov’s pass put Murzaev through on goal and he took one touch to control the ball and another to take him past the keeper before slotting it into the net from a wide angle.
The Emiratis had struggled in front of goal throughout the group stage and the usually reliable Mabkhout headed wide from three metres a minute after half-time.
He made amends with his eighth Asian Cup goal after the hour mark, however, needing one touch to control Amer Abdulrahman’s pass before rifling the ball into the net.
Kyrgyz Republic defender Tamirlan Kozubaev should have equalised seven minutes later but somehow steered his shot wide from point-blank range although the Central Asians would not be denied and finally levelled from a stoppage-time corner.
Rustamov was gifted an extraordinary amount of space inside the six-yard box and the midfielder made no mistake with his header to send the match into extra time.
The home side made the brighter start to the extra period and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot when Mabkhout fell under a challenge from Bekzhan Sagynbaev leaving Khalil to put away the penalty.
Kyrgyz Republic then twice hit the woodwork but to the host nation’s relief they were unable to snatch a third equaliser.