Uzbekistan 3 Saudi Arabia 1: Rashidov double helps book last-eight berth
Uzbekistan eliminated Saudi Arabia from the Asian Cup with a 3-1 win in Melbourne on Sunday, booking a quarter-final against South Korea in the process.
Sardor Rashidov's goal within two minutes earned the White Wolves an early lead, which was cancelled out by Mohammed Al Sahlawi's penalty in the 60th minute at AAMI Park.
A draw would have sent the Saudis through on goal difference, but they were unable to hold on.
Despite seeing an effort harshly ruled out for a questionable foul, the 2011 semi-finalists responded with two goals in the space of eight minutes, first from Vokhid Shodiev and then Rashidov's second.
Uzbekistan's reward for sealing second place behind China in Group B is a last-eight showdown with Group A's winners, who are yet to concede in the tournament, at the same venue on Thursday.
Uzbekistan made a dream start to the crunch match, a lucky bounce allowing Bunyodkor's Rashidov to burst beyond the backline and dispatch a great finish from a tight angle past goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah.
Cosmin Olaroiu's Saudi side recovered from their bad start to dominate possession throughout the first half, without carving out a clear-cut opening.
The pressure continued to mount as the half wore on, Uzbekistan forced into a series of desperate challenges and blocks to deny their opponents, Mirjalol Kasimov's men ultimately making it to the break with their slender advantage intact.
Saudi Arabia finally made the breakthrough their dominance deserved just before the hour mark, when Vitaliy Denisov was harshly adjudged to have fouled Naif Hazazi inside the area. Australian referee Ben Williams pointed to the spot and Al Sahlawi tucked away the penalty to make it 1-1.
Having failed to mount a meaningful attack since taking the lead, conceding the equaliser sparked Uzbekistan into life and they came close to regaining their advantage within minutes of the restart.
Abdulla Aldossary ended the promising counter-attack when he brought down goal-scorer Rashidov inches outside the box.
Kasimov's men had the ball in the back of the net after the initial free-kick was spilled by Abdullah, only for Williams to questionably penalise the attacking side for interference during the build-up.
Uzbekistan were not to be denied though. With 20 minutes to go, full-back Shavkatjon Mulladjanov swung in a dangerous cross to the back post and substitute Shodiev rose highest to head beyond the reach of Abdullah, sparking wild celebrations on the Uzbek bench.
Those scenes were nothing compared to what greeted Uzbekistan's third in the 79th minute.
Hugging the left touchline, Jasur Khasanov's pace on the counter opened space to swing an inch-perfect cross to the back post, where Rashidov demonstrated a cool head to control the delivery and then slot home.
This time Kasimov's staff and squad charged onto the field and toward the Saudi bench in celebration, unused substitute Farrukh Sayfiev booked for his part in the incident.
The three-time Asian Cup winners rarely came close to getting back into it, as they bowed out at the group stage for the third time in the last four tournaments.