A brilliant late free kick from Maftuna Shoyimova decided the match as Uzbekistan’s women’s national team edged India to win 1-0 in an international friendly on Monday.
Shoyimova’s inch-perfect 30-yard strike was the dash of inspiration Bahrom Norsafarov’s side needed, breaking the deadlock in the 87th minute to give the 41st-ranked Uzbekistan victory over the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 hosts.
The match was the first of three friendlies to be played in the Central Asian nation over the coming week, with India to face Belarus on Thursday, before Uzbekistan meet the same opposition on Sunday.
Coming into the match against a side ranked 12 places higher without Scotland-based star Bala Devi, an Indian team led by Indumathi Kathiresan stood firm despite regular pressure from the hosts.
Uzbekistan, missing one of their own standouts in Lyudmila Karachik, looked dangerous in attack but couldn’t find a breakthrough, with the woodwork and Indian goalkeeper Aditi Chauhan both responsible for keeping the match goalless after 45 minutes.
Despite a number of substitutions, the match looked destined to finish in a stalemate, but Shoyimova settled it with just three minutes remaining in normal time, beating Aditi with a perfectly hit free-kick, which tickled the upright before finding its way into the back of the net.
Aiming to become the first women’s team from Central Asia to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023, Uzbekistan have won two of three senior international fixtures so far this year, also earning a victory against Russian champions CSKA Moscow in Turkey in February.
Norsafarov’s team will be among the sides bidding to qualify for the January’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup when the qualifiers are held this September, while India’s place in the continental Finals is already secured as tournament hosts.