India fell to host China 1-5 in its opening group game at the 19th Asian Games on Tuesday 19 September at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium, in Hangzhou. Rahul KP scored India’s only goal in injury time of the first half.
China repeatedly targeted India’s right flank through the early exchanges, with Tao Qianglong running riot with ease. In the 13th minute, Tan Long was played through by Dai Weijun, a brilliant through ball undoing the Indian defence.
Long shot at goal from close range but a snap reflex by Gurmeet Singh saw the attempt saved. But the linesman already had the offside flag raised.
By then though, India had started growing into the game, led by Sunil Chhetri, who dropped back repeatedly to pick the ball and hold possession.
A minute later India had its first attempt in goal. A misjudged run by Sumit Rathi saw the ball ricochet into space on China’s left. Chhetri picked it up and drove at a back-pedalling China defence before letting it fly from 35 yards, as the ball whizzed off-target.
Minutes later though, the hosts stung. Weijun headed the delivery across the goal straight into the path of Gao Tianyi who struck on the volley from inside the six-yard box.
India was forced to commit more to the attack and it proved costly in the 24th minute when a wayward pass from the back saw Long bear down on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Gurmeet infringed upon the attacker conceding a penalty, and then quickly redeemed himself by saving Weijun’s effort.
It proved to be the catalyst India perhaps needed. In the first-half injury time, Abdul Anjukandan played a ball over the top to release Rahul running in from the right. The winger took the ball, marauded along the flank and took a clean shot on goal.
He had a defender, a goalkeeper and a narrow angle to beat and he went three for three, leaving the stadium stunned at the break.
Eventually, China retook the lead six minutes into the second half, with Weijun scoring from long range to spark jubilation in the stands.
From thereon the host took a stranglehold on the game, denying India’s tiring squad the ball and forcing it into long periods of defending.
In the 72nd minute, Wang Haijian shot again from distance, his effort deflecting en route to the Indian goal. Gurmeet adjusted brilliantly to parry, but unfortunately, for him, the ball fell straight into the path of an onrushing Qianglong who tapped it in.
Qianglong added a second to his tally with a kneed volley three minutes later to effectively kill the competition. H. Fang added a fifth in injury time to compound India’s misery in a game it deserved more from than it got.
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