Dalian (China): India ended their AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2024 Qualification campaign with their second loss in as many matches, as UAE defeated them 3-0 at Dalian Suoyuwan Stadium here on Tuesday
With this defeat, while India finished at bottom of Group G, they also played spoilsport for hosts China PR, to beat India 2-1 in an earlier match.
It was a do-or-die match for both the sides; a win by two or more goals would guarantee UAE the top spot in Group G of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2024 Qualifiers, while three points would give India a chance to qualify as one of the four best second-placed teams out of the 11 groups, the All India Football Federation sources said.
With a victory of 3-0 margin, UAE finished on top of Group G with four points and a better goal difference. China who ended with four points too, have an outside chance of making the next round as one of the four best second-placed teams.
Both sides sensed the urgency and began the match at great intensity, tackles flying in both halves of the pitch. Jiteshwor Singh picked up a booking around the quarter hour mark for a tackle in the middle of the pitch.
The UAE managed to take the lead in the 26th minute as the Indian defenders were left rather confused after a melee inside the box. Mohammed Abbas Alblooshi was finally awarded the goal after a lengthy discussion between the referee and his assistant.
The side from the Persian Gulf doubled their lead just three minutes after the half-hour mark, when Sultan Adil Alameeri’s low drive from inside the box found the back of the net.
Sensing the game slipping away from under their feet, India began to rotate the ball around the park, looking for openings. However, for all their intent, the UAE back-line managed to keep them at bay.
After the change of ends, India looked to put some pressure on the UAE defence. Parthib Gogoi made a foray down the right into the attacking third early in the second half, but his cross evaded all the forwards.
India head coach Clifford Miranda made a couple of changes, bringing on Rabeeh Anjukandan and Sourav in place of Sanjeev Stalin and Parthib Gogoi a little after the hour mark, as they looked to pull one back.
However, UAE sat back and waited for the perfect opportunity to spring a counter-attack. Goalkeeper Hamad Abdulla Almeqbaali launched a long ball forward, as Eisa Khalfan finished off the move, to make it 3-0.
More changes were in store for India as Rohit Danu and Ayush Chhetri replaced Suhail Bhat and Jiteshwor Singh, followed by the final substitution of the day for India, as Amarjit Singh Kiyam replaced Vibin Mohanan.
Three substitutes combined with 18 minutes of regulation time left, as Danu cut it back to Rabeeh, who passed it on to Sourav, whose shot was blocked.
Sourav and Amarjit had two more chances, but the former was denied by the opposition keeper, while the latter shot wide. Striker and skipper Siva Sakthi had arguably the best chance of the match in injury time, when he curled one with his left foot, aimed at the top corner. However, Almeqbaali pulled off an airborne save to deny him, as the match was soon brought to an end.
India XI: Prabhsukhan Gill; Sumit Rathi, Narender, Jitendra Singh; Vibin Mohanan (Amarjit Singh Kiyam 72′), Thoiba Moirangthem, Jiteshwor Singh (Ayush Chhetri 69′), Sanjeev Stalin (Rabeeh Anjukandan 63′); Siva Sakthi Narayanan, Suhail Bhat (Rohit Danu 69′), Parthib Gogoi (Sourav 63′).