Uzbekistan 1-2 Belarus
An under-strength Belarus secured an excellent friendly victory against Uzbekistan in Tashkent.
Tough time ahead
Goals from Vladimir Shuneiko and Vitali Kutuzov provided a welcome lift for coach Eduard Malofeev as he prepares for two UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifiers next month. Belarus welcome the Netherlands on 7 June before travelling to Austria four days later. The win was also achieved despite the second-half dismissal of Maksim Romashenko.
Key men out
Belarus had started without several regulars including their captain, FC Dynamo Kyiv forward Valentin Belkevich, who did not make the trip because of club commitments. Also missing for the same reason was VfB Stuttgart midfield player Aleksandr Gleb while FC Spartak Moskva's Vasili Baranov did not make his planned comeback because of concerns over his form.
Also absent were FC Alania Vladikavkaz's Igor Tarlovski, Spartak's Roman Vasilyuk, FC Dinamo Minsk's Vitali Volodenkov and FC Shinnik Yaroslavl's Aleksandr Kulchiy. All were sidelined by injury, which meant Malofeev had to field a largely inexperienced side.
None the less, the Belarussians started brightly, taking the initiative from the kick-off. It was no surprise, then, when they broke the deadlock in the 15th minute through Shuneiko. There was to be no more scoring until the second half, which also began in sprightly fashion.
Uzbekistan finally found a way through eight minutes after the restart with Maksim Shatskikh supplying a goal for Vladimir Shishelov. However, Belarus responded immediately with the decisive strike from Sporting Clube de Portugal forward Kutuzov. Romashenko received his marching orders a few minutes later but the visitors were able to hang on.
More than satisfied
Malofeev was in jovial mood after the final whistle, especially given the earlier withdrawals from his squad. "We wanted to play for a draw but unfortunately we won the game," he said. "No seriously, my aim was to check our reserves and I am satisfied. I am glad that my players were very determined on the pitch and were looking for the victory."
His counterpart, Uzbekistan coach Ravshan Khaidarov, said: "I am also satisfied with the way my players performed. We only just missed out on getting a positive result from this game."
Fourth from five
Belarus are fourth in Group 3 with one victory - against Moldova - from four matches and trail joint group leaders, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, by seven points.
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