An afterthought from Tashkent

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By Kevin Estrada

THE Uzbeks downed the Azkals in an entertaining World Cup Qualifier Thursday night, and it is safe to say that it was a nervy but an exciting so to speak.

Here are the talking points that came right after Ryuji Sato blew the full-time whistle.

UZBEKISTAN IS CLEARLY FRUSTRATED DESPITE THE WIN. The stats definitely do not lie at full time. A team that is 60 places above us in the FIFA Rankings should beat us by 4 or 5 on any given day. Uzbekistan was clearly the aggressor all throughout ninety minutes, with the possession went 65-35 in their favor. But only eking out a win by the slimmest of margins means that its finishing boots need some sharpening before Bahrain pays the team a visit come Tuesday.

NEIL ETHERIDGE WAS A BEAST FOR THE ENTIRE MATCH. His Goalkeeping made sure of the slim scoreline, a direct contrast to what happened on Sept. 8, 2015. All Uzbek shots had wasp stings all over the ball and he had to move everytime for it, a proof of their unextinguishable firepower. Save for that winner by Ismailov, the Walsall first-choice could have been the MOTM if he keep the goalless stalemate with that high-level goalkeeping. His De Gea-esque job got the nod of the netizens after the match.

ALEXANDER GEYNRIKH GOT MY NOD FOR MOTM. Hands down, the talismanic super sub is the difference in the match. The free kick that lead to the winner by Anzur Ismailov had his fingerprints on it. True enough. he had a role in all of their home wins in the qualifiers everytime he came off the bench for Samvel Babayan. Geynrikh proved once again that Mirjalol Qosimov was wrong to omit him from the squad early last year..

OJ PORTERIA'S RED CARD IS A DEBATABLE ISSUE. Well, give the Japanese referee a benefit of the doubt. for he clearly had a "That Escalated Quickly" moment. Surely enough, the studs up tackle is an automatic yellow for dangerous play. But since OJ's tackle went to the ankle of defender Egor Krimets, maybe Sato-san was right in giving him the marching orders out of the pitch. Well everyone's entitled to their own opinion so we should leave it here.

THE AZKALS HAVE TO WIN AGAINST NORTH KOREA ON TUESDAY. With Bahrain defeating Yemen by 3-0, we're down to fourth in Group H with one match to go (Bahrain's on 9, we're at 7), the Azkals' last match on Tuesday is a must-win. The Azkals need to win big and hope Bahrain loses against Uzbekistan to get back at third in our group and make a safe passage into the third round of Asian Cup Qualifying. A draw or a loss will give them uncertainty in where they should stand, even as low as they need a playoff just to get through to the third round.

THAT HUGE UZBEK FLAG. If there's another reason why the PFF got it wrong once again in insisting the controversial code of conduct, it had to be that big flag unfurled inside Bunyodkor Stadium. Anger and frustration was the order of the night by the supporters thrown at the top brass at the PFF, most the lynchpins behind the infamous rule that became a full blown crisis for the past two years, with attendances last year did not even reach 8,000 in home matches. Furthermore, it showed how defiant the PFF is to justify that, even at the expense of sucking the life out of Rizal and in Bocaue respectively. With the Suzuki Cup hosting in the country later in the year, I would wonder what both the Kaholeros and the Ultras Filipinas would do to have the PFF sit down on that with the COC in mind.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada