Uzbekistan took the upper hand in the first leg of their FIFA World Cup Asian play-off after claiming a 1-1 draw in Jordan.
Server Djeparov’s equaliser in the 35th minute gave the Uzbeks a crucial away goal after Mossab Al-Laham had handed the hosts the lead.
The stakes were high on Friday, with the winner of the two-legged Asian clash set to continue their bid to qualify for the World Cup.
Either Uzbekistan or Jordan will then play-off, again over two legs, against the fifth-placed South American team, with the winner set to reach next year’s tournament in Brazil.
Jordan entered the fixture on the back of an outstanding home record that had seen them win 10 of their last 11 fixtures, with the other being a draw.
In that run, they beat Asian heavyweights Japan and Australia, and spirits were high within the Jordan camp after they took the lead.
Al-Laham was the scorer, firing Jordan into a 30th-minute lead as he finished a neat passing move well.
Uzbekistan quickly pegged them back, though, as Djeparov’s third goal in his last five matches for his country proved crucial.
Djeparov linked well with Jasur Khasanov in the build-up before scoring with his left foot.
Jordan coach Hossam Hassan brought attackers Odai Al-Saify and Abdallah Deeb off the bench in the second half as they searched for a winner, but their efforts were in vain.
The draw was an excellent result for Uzbekistan, who – armed with an away goal – will feel confident about the second leg, to be held in Tashkent on Tuesday.