Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Taiwan's soccer team restores some pride

By Dave Carroll  /  STAFF REPORTER

With a 0-9 deficit from the first leg in Tashkent, the best the crowd at Zhongshan Stadium in Taipei could hope for yesterday was that Taiwan's soccer team could restore a bit of pride in their match against Uzbekistan.

All hopes of reaching the Asian Zone second qualifying round of the FIFA World Cup 2010 were extinguished by the result against Uzbekistan in the first leg. That was reflected in the size of the crowd yesterday evening, as at best a few hundred turned up to watch the match, even though, as always, admission was free.

For 80 minutes Taiwan's soccer players more than regained some pride, as they harried the Uzbeks in midfield, defended bravely and more than rode their luck to keep the game scoreless. But in the 80th minute a cross from the left evaded everybody in the Taiwan penalty area and the ball fell to Islom Inomov who squeezed it in at the far post.

Then, in the last minute, after a foul on the edge of the Taiwan area, Ilhomjon Suyunov hit a free kick into the top left corner to seal a 2-0 win for Uzbekistan, 11-0 on aggregate.

Both anthems were impeccably observed by the crowd and Taiwan kicked off with a 4-5-1 formation, Huang Wei-yi (黃瑋儀) effectively playing as a lone striker.

Taiwan attacked from the off, maybe catching Uzbekistan off guard, and had a good chance as early as the second minute when captain Cheng Yung-jen (鄭勇仁) shot from just outside the area after good build-up play by Lo Chih-an (羅志安) on the left, but it was saved well by the Uzbek keeper Ignatiy Nesterov diving to his left.

It did not take long for Uzbekistan to get back into the game however, and after good work by Viktor Klishin in the penalty area a cross from Pavel Solomin on the right fell to Server Djeparov who hit the post with Taiwan keeper Lu Kun-chi (呂昆錡) well beaten.

Lo Chih-an, Chen Po-liang (陳柏良) and Taiwan's most potent attacking force Lo Chih-en (羅志恩) combined well in the 10th minute, but Lo Chih-en mis-hit his shot wide from the right of the penalty area. From the resulting goal kick the ball fell to Solomin free on the right of the area, and his powerful drive hit the angle of the left post and bar to go behind. Once again Taiwan had been saved by the woodwork.

A tackle from behind by Hayrulla Karimov on Lo Chih-en had Bangladeshi referee Tayeb Shamsuzzam reaching for his yellow card in the 15th minute, and two minutes later a free kick from Djeparov was headed just wide by Klishin.

Solid defense from both teams and a crowded midfield meant chances were hard to come by until the 31st minute when Chen, Lo Chih-en and Huang combined well on the edge of the opposition penalty area for Taiwan, with the keeper getting down well to save Lo Chih-en's shot.

Two minutes later Uzbekistan looked to have won a penalty when Klishin fell in the area under a challenge from keeper Lu, but the referee waved play on.

Uzbekistan replaced Djeparov with Shavkat Salomov following an injury, and missed the final chance of the half in the 45th minute when Timur Kapadze headed wide.

The Uzbeks looked to go after Taiwan following the break. Waves of pressure were repelled by the Taiwan midfield and defense as they remained resolute, but as the half wore on they began to tire -- evident when keeper Lu was booked for time-wasting on a goal kick.

Taiwan's best chance of the second half came in the 64th minute when a great pass from Cheng found Lo Chih-en free on the right. His cross was mis-kicked by Chen, but found Lo Chih-an on the left, whose sweet half-volley was saved by Nesterov at his near post.

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