AFC U-16 CHAMPIONSHIP : AUSTRALIA 0-1 KYRGYZSTAN
Goa (N4C Sports Desk)- Tournament debutants Kyrgyzstan pulled off the first shock of the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 as Adilet Kanybekov’s 75th-minute penalty secured a 1-0 upset win over powerhouse Australia in the Group B opener at GMC Stadium on Friday.
An even first half created little in the way of chances until just before the interval when Kyrgyzstan ‘keeper Elgard Sychev denied Louis D’Arrigo in stunning fashion.
The save proved vital as the Central Asians held off a renewed onslaught from the young Joeys in the second half before Kanybekov’s contribution with fifteen minutes to play ensured a historic moment for Kyrgyzstan football.
Kyrgyzstan began the match in positive fashion, constantly looking to take the game to the 2016 AFF U-16 Champions.
Composure in front of goal was lacking though, particularly from forward Aziret Momoshev, and Australia began to settle into the tie which soon became a tightly contested affair with the two sides struggling to create clear-cut opportunities.
It took until the 38th minute for Kyrgyzstan to have their first effort on target as Momoshev burst upfield on the counter before teeing up Gulzhigit Alykulov whose shot was straight at Joeys’ goalkeeper Nicholas Suman.
At the other end, Rahmat Akbari went close to creating the breakthrough with a flicked pass that saw Bryce Bafford through on goal only to see Sychev rush out of his goal to smother at the feet of the striker.
Sychev performed further heroics on the stroke of halftime as he somehow kept out D’Arrigo’s goal-bound effort from close range with an incredible reaction block to keep the tie goalless at the break.
Australia began the second half on the front foot and Joel King had an early opportunity just four minutes in as his free-kick curled narrowly over the crossbar before Adrian Viggiani then drilled a shot narrowly wide.
Kyrgyzstan remained a threat going forward though and the ball dropped to Momoshev inside the area on 63 minutes but, again, the striker saw his shot go the wrong side of the left-hand upright.
Just five minutes later substitute Arlen Sharshebekov was next through on goal but this time it was Suman, rather than poor finishing, who prevented the game’s first goal.
The game’s turning point occurred not long after, as midfielder Emir Shigaibaev was stretchered from the field to be replaced by Kanybekov.
The substitute had not been long on the field when Gulzhigit Borbubaev was brought down in the penalty area and it was Kanybekov who stepped up to slot the spot-kick home past Suman to spark frenzied celebration amongst his teammates on and off the field.
Australia pressed for a leveller but the Central Asians held on to secure their first ever victory in the AFC U-16 Championship.