Uzbekistan, Lebanon draw 1-1 in WCup qualifier
Uzbekistan drew 1-1 with Lebanon in a World Cup qualifier on Friday, keeping both teams winless after two matches and facing an uphill battle to make the finals in Brazil.
Jasur Hasanov gave Uzbekistan the lead just 11 minutes in, scoring after Lebanon defender Bilal Najarin failed to clear the ball.
Lebanon, which lost its opening Group A match to Qatar 1-0, did little in the first 30 minutes in Beirut. But then Ali al-Saadi equalized in the 34th by powering past goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov with a free kick from 30 meters.
Both sides came into the match full of confidence, with Lebanon especially hoping to continue a dream run that has seen it reach this stage for the first time. Uzbekistan is also looking to reach the World Cup for the first time.
Lebanon coach Theo Bucker downplayed the team's struggle on attack in the first two matches, saying the draw was a good result considering Uzbekistan was a much more experienced side.
''Both of the countries we played against (Qatar and Uzbekistan) are far ahead of us in almost everything. I hope people could see this was a good result for us,'' Bucker said. ''In the last 20 minutes, we were the better team against a side which plays at a European professional standard.''
Bucker took aim at local fans and the media who heaped criticism on the team since it lost to Qatar 1-0 in its opening match.
''One day we lose, the next we draw and I go from a bad coach to a good coach. This flip-flopping is making me very sad,'' he said. ''We have so many great players, coaches and experts telling me what to do as if I'm an amateur coach.''
Uzbekistan coach Kasimov Mirdjalal, who replaced Vadim Abramov after Iran beat his team on a late goal in its first qualifier, felt his team deserved to beat Lebanon.
He said the draw only adds to the misery of a team which felt it deserved to beat Iran but had a goal overturned and then allowed the winner to Iran with only seconds left.
''It was a good game with good speed. We had lots of good chances but we couldn't convert them. If you added up all the chances it would be enough to fill an entire season,'' Mirdjalal said. ''Fate played a bad joke on our players.''
Mirdjalal, however, said there were enough positives in the draw to suggest the team will return to winning ways.
''I think we have enough time and we will improve for the next match,'' he said of the match against South Korea in September.
Qatar and South Korea played the other Group A match late Friday.