Uzbekistan were made to work for a 2-0 win over Nepal in their second Group D AFC Under-23 Championship qualifier at the Tahnoun Bin Mohammad Stadium in Al Ain.
Dostonbuk Tursonov put the White Wolves in front on 21 minutes before Azizjon Ganiev got a second 10 minutes before time to register Uzbekistan’s second victory in the group after opening with a 3-1 win over Lebanon on Saturday.
It was a much improved performance from Nepal, who blamed the heat after their opening 5-0 defeat to the UAE on Saturday.
Ironically, it rained in the desert just before kick-off to give the well-supported Gorkhalis a slight reprieve in temperature but that didn’t seem to help Uzbekistan, who looked out of sorts despite the drop in mercury.
Uzbekistan’s Zabikhillo Urinboev had two chances to put the White Wolves in front early on, but shot wide and missed an open goal after successfully getting onto the end of crosses inside the first quarter.
Their luck changed on 21 minutes, however, when Tursunov headed in Javokhir Sidikov’s cross for the opener.
Nepal never looked capable of scoring bar an advantageous overhead kick from Anjan Bista just before half-time, which went wide. But they did control large swathes of play after conceding the opener and defended admirably in the face of inevitable Uzbek counter-attacks - much to the delight of their fans, who made up the majority of the 1,825 in attendance.
Urinboev again headed wide from a cross before the hour to round off a disappointing night in front of goal. But he made up for it on 80 minutes by supplying the quick one-two that fed Ganiev into play for the second.