Veteran striker Maksim Shatskikh scored the sole goal as Uzbekistan won 1-0 at Tajikistan on Friday in their opening match of third-round Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

The Arsenal Kyiv striker netted in the 72nd minute to give the visitors a share of top spot in Group C with Japan, which won 1-0 at home against North Korea.

Despite the home defeat, the narrow margin was a creditable performance by the Tajiks, who only found themselves in the third round after Syria was disqualified for fielding an ineligible player in the previous round.