AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (Reuters) – Goalkeeper Maty Ryan earned champions Australia a quarter-final 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.
Australia will next face the winners of Monday’s round of 16 tie between hosts the United Arab Emirates and Kyrgyzstan.
(Editing by Ian Chadband)