Amman, Jordan: Uzbekistan grabbed a vital away goal but failed to convert their dominance over Jordan into victory as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their World Cup Asia zone play-off on Friday.
The terrible pitch at the King Abdullah Stadium did not help the usually slick passing of the Uzbeks and the visitors were also subjected to having lasers shined in the eyes of their players in the first half when taking corner kicks.
The Uzbeks, though, will be confident they can complete the job in Tuesday’s second leg in Tashkent against a Jordan team with a notoriously poor away record and set up a play-off against the fifth-placed South American side for a berth in Brazil.
The visitors, fourth at the 2011 Asian Cup, looked set for a rare victory in Amman after making a bright start against a Jordan side appearing at this stage for the first time.
However, it was Jordan who opened the scoring after intricate passing near the edge of the visitors penalty area put Musab Al Laham through and he neatly slotted home a left-foot effort on the half-hour mark.
The goal brought rapturous applause from the home fans, but they fell silent just five minutes later when the Uzbeks came up with the equaliser their domination warranted.
Sever Djeparov set Jasur Khasanov clear down the left and the wideman ran to the byline before cleverly pulling the ball back into the path of the onrushing Uzbek captain, who drilled a left-foot shot past Amer Sabbah.
The Jordan goalkeeper was called on to make a number of saves from long-distance efforts by the visitors, with Djeparov and Khasanov warming his hands as the Uzbeks controlled proceedings prior to the half-time whistle.
Jordan coach Hossan Hassan, who took charge after the surprise resignation of Adnan Hamad in June, raised eyebrows by leaving the attacking trio of Abdullah Deeb, Amer Deeb and Odai Al Saify on the bench but he quickly turned to them in the second period.
The home side enjoyed greater territory with more options going forward, but the decision-making in the final third of the pitch left a lot to be desired and stand-in goalkeeper Murotjon Zukhurov was rarely tested.
The Uzbeks were guilty of a lack of urgency as the game wore on but still posed a threat from set pieces, with Djeparov swinging a number of corners dangerously close to the Jordan goal.
The playmaker wasted a good chance to put the visitors ahead in the 84th minute when he collected a pass from Khasanov on the edge of the penalty area, only to scuff his shot tamely at Sabbah.
Jordan wideman Oday Zahran could have snatched an unlikely winner for the hosts in the 92nd minute, but he blazed a right-foot drive over the bar, leaving the west Asians with it all to do in Tashkent.