Jordan 1-1 Uzbekistan
Scorers: Al Laham (Jordan 30′), Djeparov (Uzbekistan 35′)
Hossam Hassan’s Jordan maintained their respectable home record in World Cup 2014 qualifiers in their 1st leg play off match against Uzbekistan. But that will not be of much solace to the manager, nor the players, after a somewhat underwhelming performance from Al Nashama.
A packed Amman International Stadium watched the events unfold, the expectant crowd understandably more edgy than usual. This was the first of the two (or potentially four) most important matches ever played by Jordan on the International scene, and everyone inside the stadium was acutely aware of that fact. Their new manager Hossam Hassan himself had huge shoes to fill, after Iraqi Coach Adnan Hamad had surprisingly vacated his post straight after Jordan’s 1-0 win against Oman which saw them reach these play offs, but the Egyptian legend knew this well: ”When I signed up, I knew how tough this period would be,”. Jordan had had their most successful run on the International scene thanks to Hamad, but Hassan was eager to sign off the good work himself with a World Cup spot, despite the difficulties endured since his allocation to the post two months ago: “I’m confident our side will be competitive and qualify. That’s our objective and we’ll do it.” he told Fifa.com a few days prior to this game.
But it was the visitors who started off the brighter of the two sides, Djeparov was a threat from the off, with Denisov marauding down the left flank to trouble the hosts further. Uzbekistan have had their own woes in recent World Cup Qualification campaigns, the “nearly there” side of Asia had come within a whisker of making Brazil 2014 several months ago, but their path was cruelly blocked by goal difference, their +5 was not enough to outdo Korea’s +6 and remove them from their World Cup spot. Such is football. So the White Wolves came to Amman with a glint in their eye and bared fangs.
Against the early pattern of play however, Jordan scored. The precision we saw from Al Nashama under Hamad on the counter was largely missing today, but there was a glorious glimpse of the aforementioned in the run up to Al Laham’s goal, the forward players clicking in a beautifully intricate piece of attacking play that left the Uzbekistan defence looking hapless. Al Laham forced the issue from the left flank, he drove into the box meanwhile exchanging passes with both Saeed Al Murjan & Ahmad Hayel, before coolly slotting home. The home fans were sent into raptures, and the early tension evaporated as if it had never existed.
The joy proved to be agonisingly short lived for the home fans, as Uzbekistan who looked the more accomplished of the two sides today found the equaliser just 6 minutes later through their talisman and captain Server Djeparov, disappointingly for Shafi in goal, the shot was rather tame, but it slipped beyond him and into the net after he managed to get an uncertain glove to it.The rest of the first half saw Uzbekistan dominate, but fail to exert any real pressure in the final third.
The teams went into the break with a goal apiece. Hassan’s words at half time seemed to have an effect on his players. They emerged rejuvenated and dominated the early second half exchanges, finally they played like the home side. Unfortunately, the second half changes proved futile and failed to see either side find a break through. Uzbekistan resorted to long range strikes at the unusually shaky looking Shafi, while Jordan finished the stronger of the two with a late flurry of chances. But there was little to shout about as both sides provided uncharacteristically disjointed displays.
Uzbekistan will head into return leg in Tashkent on Tuesday 10th September as favourites, the teams have just four days to dust themselves down after a scrappy affair. Qosimov will be the happier of the two managers, and Hassan will have his work cut out in order for his team to make it to the inter-continental play off against South America’s fifth placed side. It has already been a long and arduous qualifying campaign, but for these two sides it’s not quite done yet.