A defiant Iain Ramsay has no doubt Adelaide United will atone from its near self-destruction and overcome Bunyodkor to reach the last four of the AFC Champions League.
Locked at 2-2 having let slip a two-goal lead in the first leg of the quarter-final at Hindmarsh Stadium last week, the Reds need a repeat of their group stage victory in Tashkent in the return leg on 3 October to stay alive in the competition.
Ramsay and Evan Kostopoulos handed Adelaide a dream start with two goals inside 18 minutes before the 43rd minute dismissal of defender Nigel Boogaard and some sloppy defending allowed strikes from Jasar Khasanov and Shavat Solomov to haul the visitor level.
Undaunted by needing a win – or at worst a 3-3 draw or more to secure a semi-final berth against either Ulsan Hyundai or Saudi Arabia's Al Hilal – Ramsay said: “When we were leading two nil we had a few more chances to put them away completely. It could have been all over in the first half.
“But that’s the way things go sometimes but we are still really confident we can pull off the result we need over there. They were there for the taking.”
Ramsay, like coach John Kosmina, claimed the red card brandished to Boogaard by Oman-based referee Abdullah Mohamed Al Hilali was harsh and a “game changer”.
“It was a big call by the referee but what can you do?” he added.
“There was a blatant handball which didn’t go in our favour when the guy marking me (Akmal Shorahmedov) used his hand. Everybody saw it except the referee. That was in the first half and it was disappointing.
“It was tough on us but we won’t be downhearted at all going into the return. We are totally up for it.
“I really fancy us to win over there. We won 2-1 in the group stage against them in Tashkent and they will remember that.”
The Reds attacker feels Bunyodkor will be caught in two minds going into the return and that could work in Adelaide’s favour.
“They will be under the pump. They will work in blocks to try and fend us off and might not know quite how to approach the game,” he said.
“But we will pressure them high and take the game to them. We’ll put them under the pump straight away and, like I said, if not for the red card incident the tie might already be over for them.
“They were very fortunate. The truth is they couldn’t deal with us when we had 11 players.”
The 24-year-old believes United, looking for A-League redemption after the under-achievement of last season, can carry its form into the start of the new season when it faces Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on 7 October.
“We’ve had a great pre-season. We’ve had good wins against Brisbane Roar and Central Coast. We are fit, we have more depth than last season and we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
If Adelaide's players are looking for any further encouragement on their journey to Tashkent they need only cast their minds back to 2008, when they overcame Bunyodkor over two legs to reach the AFC Champions League final.
AFC Champions League
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