Doha: Uzbekistan will face hosts and holders Qatar in the Asian Cup quarter-finals after highly rated Abbosbek Fayzullaev hit the winner in a 2-1 victory over Thailand on Tuesday.
The Uzbeks have been touted as dark horses for the title and took the lead in the first half with a cool Azizbek Turgunboev finish through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Thailand were the lowest-ranked team left at the tournament but they struck back just before the hour with an even better goal, from distance, by substitute Supachok Sarachat.
Uzbekistan were the more accomplished team and went ahead again midway through the second half when 20-year-old CSKA Moscow winger Fayzullaev rolled the ball in from outside the box.
This time Thailand had no reply, despite some late pressure.
Qatar booked their spot in the last eight on Monday with a 2-1 victory over Palestine.
Thailand were underdogs but did not concede a goal in three matches as they finished second to Saudi Arabia in their group.
Oston Urunov had three decent chances to breach the Thai defence in the first 25 minutes and then Thai goalkeeper Patiwat Khammai had to stretch to deny Jaloliddin Masharipov.
Thailand’s early enthusiasm evaporated and it looked only a matter of time until the Uzbeks went ahead.
In the 37th minute they did, Turgunboev chesting the ball down in the box and sweeping the ball first time through the legs of Patiwat.
It was his second goal of the tournament and a moment of class.
The Uzbeks racked up 10 shots to Thailand’s one in a one-sided opening period in front of 19,000 at Al Janoub Stadium.
Thailand’s Japanese coach Ishii Masatada made a double change and it paid off in spectacular style on 58 minutes.
The newly introduced Supachok exchanged passes with Supachai Chaided before bending the ball wonderfully into the bottom corner from outside the box.
The two teams were level for just seven minutes.
Fayzullaev turned on the edge of the box and stroked the ball through the legs of a Thai defender and into the bottom corner.
It was the youngster’s second goal of the competition.
Defender Elias Dolah had Thailand’s best chance to level for a second time but his header flew just over in stoppage time.
In the other last-16 match on Tuesday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea face a Saudi side coached by another European great in Roberto Mancini.