Belarus 2-2 Uzbekistan
Belarus, having a rest from UEFA EURO 2004™ qualification, threw away a two-goal lead to be restricted to a 2-2 draw by Uzbekistan in a friendly encounter in Minsk. Goals from debutants Maxim Tsygalko and Igor Rozhkov had given the hosts what looked a secure lead, only for Uzbekistan to draw level in a frantic three-minute spell in the second half.
Following the 2-1 victory over Moldova in their qualifier on Saturday, Belarus coach Edward Malofeev decided to rest several players for the game, allowing him to take a look at some of his fringe options. Goalkeeper Gennady Tumilovich, defender Andrey Ostrovsky, midfield players Alexander Gleb, Alexander Hatskevich and Andrey Lavrik were all omitted from the squad.
To fill the gaps, he gave five players their debuts. Aside from goalscorers Tsygalko and Rozhkov, goalkeeper Jury Zhevnov, defender Dmitry Rovnejko and full-back Sergey Kovalchuk all made their first national team appearances.
Uzbekistan were missing 12 players - most of whom play for Asian Champions League semi-finalists Tashkent Pahtakora. Even the promising Iljas Zejtullaev, who is at Juventus FC, was rested.
These absences did not stop the game being fiercely contested however. Tsygalko started the match especially well. After testing goalkeeper Alexey Poljakov on three occasions, he finally found the net on the 26th minute. Vitaly Volodenkov crossed from the left and Tsygalko made no mistake from 15 metres out.
Maxim Romashchenko twice went close with direct free-kicks, but it was Uzbekistan who next came closest. Aleksandr Hvostunov crossed from the right but Vladimir Shishelov, unmarked in the area, missed the target.
After a flurry of half-time substitutions by Malofeev, Belarus grabbed a second on 52 minutes. Substitute Rozhkov, who scored a hat-trick in Belarus U21s’ 3-1 win over Moldova U21s, had only been on the field seven minutes when he converted Valentin Bielkievich’s cross.
Then Uzbekistan struck back on 66 minutes through an Aleksandr Hvostunov penalty after Aleksandr Hrapkovskyi had fouled Shishelov. Only three minutes later, Aleksandr Geinrih equalised with a low shot from seven metres out.
'Down to inexperience'
Belarus assistant coach Leonid Garay blamed his team’s lack of experience for the collapse. “Our main aim here was to check on our reserves and it was only down to inexperience that we did not secure the result. However, the result was not so important,” he said.
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