Soccer-D'Agostino solo effort earns Australia an Olympic berth

BANGKOK, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Australia claimed Asia’s third and final qualifying berth for the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday when a fine solo effort from Perth Glory’s Nick D’Agostino earned Graham Arnold’s side a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan at the Asian Under 23 Championship.

The teams were meeting in the third-place playoff at the continental championship, which doubles up as Asia’s qualifying tournament for the Olympic Games, and victory for the Australians means the country will play at the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

D’Agostino struck two minutes into the second half at the end of a run that saw him skip past two defenders before sliding the ball into the bottom corner of Abduvakhid Nematov’s goal.

Uzbekistan’s hopes were all but extinguished before the hour mark when substitute Oybek Bozorov was sent off for a dangerous challenge on Zachary Duncan six minutes after stepping off the bench.

It was a killer blow for a side that had had the better of the limited opportunities in the opening 45 minutes.

Jasurbek Yakhshiboev squandered a pair of chances early in the first half, finding the hands of goalkeeper Thomas Glover with a header before bending a shot from the edge of the area wide when he had had the time to find the corner of the net.

Australia offered little in the final third of the first half after seeing D’Agostino’s fifth-minute header chalked off by referee Mohammed Hassan for a foul on Nematov.

The win means Australia join Saudi Arabia and South Korea in representing the region at the Olympic Games after the pair secured their tickets for the finals on Wednesday.

Japan, who were eliminated from the Asian U23 Championship in the group phase, will also feature at the tournament in July and August as hosts. (Reporting by Michael Church; editing by Clare Fallon)