Tajikistan, making their Asian Cup debut, triumphed over the United Arab Emirates 5-3 in a penalty shootout Sunday, securing a quarter-final spot after a 1-1 draw in extra time at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
Vahdat Hanonov put Tajikistan ahead with a first-half goal, but Khalifa Al Hammadi’s stoppage-time header sent the match into extra time. The shootout saw UAE’s Caio Canedo thwarted by goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov, followed by Alisher Shukurov’s decisive penalty for Tajikistan.
This victory marks Tajikistan as only the second tournament debutant to reach the quarter-finals since Australia in 2007, a significant feat for the team ranked outside the top 100 and 42 places below the UAE, a two-time semi-finalist in 2015 and 2019.
Tajikistan’s coach Petar Segrt expressed his elation, noting the team’s resilience and spirit. “Nobody will sleep in Tajikistan tonight,” he said, emphasizing the importance of perseverance and luck in their victory.
The game’s opening goal came when Hanonov headed in Zoir Dzhuraboev’s cross, barely crossing the line despite UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa’s save attempt.