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Tajikistan stun UAE on penalties to move into quarters

Asian Cup debutants Tajikistan have upset the United Arab Emirates 5-3 in a penalty shootout to advance to the quarter-finals.

Tajikistan keep their dream run alive after the game ended 1-1 after extra time at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Monday (AEDT).

Tajikistan took the lead through Vahdat Hanonov's first-half goal, before Khalifa Al Hammadi forced extra time with a stoppage-time header.

In the shootout, UAE's Caio Canedo had his effort saved by goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov, before Tajikistan's Alisher Shukurov scored the decisive spot kick.

Tajikistan are now only the second tournament debutants since Australia in 2007 to reach the quarter-finals, but this was a much bigger upset for the minnows compared with an established Australian team who made the switch to the AFC.

Ranked outside the top 100, the central Asian side managed by Petar Segrt sit 42 rungs below UAE, a team that had reached the semi-finals in both the 2015 and 2019 editions.

"Nobody will sleep in Tajikistan tonight," a grinning Segrt told reporters.

"At 1-1 in the 94th minute ... everybody was feeling down, but I told the players quickly to get up. If you fall down, get up.

"I shouted at them, 'Come on, everything is possible. Don't give up.' This is the character of the player, the coaches, the country and their fighting spirit."

After a cagey start, Tajikistan took the lead on the half-hour mark when Hanonov climbed over the defence to head home Zoir Dzhuraboev's cross, with the ball creeping over the line after UAE keeper Khalid Eisa Almesmari attempted a save.

Tajikistan came out roaring in the second half and had several opportunities on the counter-attack they failed to capitalise on against a shell-shocked UAE, whose coach Paulo Bento cut a frustrated figure in the dugout.

Alisher Dzhalilov went very close to making it 2-0 when he got on the end of a cross at the far post but blasted it wide.

UAE eventually made them pay in stoppage time when Al Hammadi headed home to force extra time as the fans of the Gulf country found their voice and the beat of their drums reached fever pitch.

UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa Almesmari
UAE goalkeeper Khalid Eisa Almesmari rests against the goal post as Tajikistan players celebrate. (AP PHOTO)

But the UAE supporters were stunned into silence when Tajikistan converted all their spot kicks to spark wild celebrations from the dugout.

Segrt broke his glasses in the celebrations after they sealed qualification from the group stage, and this time the Croatian was careful.

"I was lucky, I saw the players coming (to celebrate) and I went to the team manager and handed it to them saying, 'Save my glasses'," he said.

Tajikistan will find out their quarter-final opponents on Tuesday (AEDT) when Iraq face Jordan.