India fails to make AFC U-23 championship after defeat to Tajikistan

India succumbed to its second defeat of the AFC U-23 championship qualifying campaign ending without a point out of a maximum six.

Sahal Abdul Samad

Sahal Abdul evades a challenge in the match against Tajikistan.   -  Twitter @IndianFootball

The Indian U-23 national team ended its AFC U-23 championship qualifiers campaign with a 2-0 loss to Tajikistan in its second match of the group stage at the Pakhtakor stadium in Tashkent on Sunday.

Daler Yodgorov’s 30th minute strike and Solehov’s 85th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to its second defeat of the qualifying campaign ending without a point out of a maximum six.

The opponent had mounted a barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match, trying to unsettle the Indian defence but some astute goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh kept them at bay. In the 10th minute, the custodian made a fine save to deny the opposition an early breakthrough.

India could have surged ahead into lead in the 12th minute but Sarthak Golui’s header off a Komal Thatal free-kick failed to find the net, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines; courtesy of an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound.

After a nervy start, the Indian team found itself some bright spots and in the 27th minute, Rahim Ali found Thatal inside the box. With defenders closing in, Komal could only launch the ball over the woodwork in an attempt to give India the lead.

India’s attacking momentum was short-lived as Tajikistan took the lead in the 30th minute with Daler finding the back of the India net from inside the box.

Attempting to find the equaliser before half-time, Rahim went on a run down the middle and found Anirudh Thapa, whose shot was blocked by the Tajik defence line.

The urgency for the equaliser for India kept the opposition on its toes and soon after the second half re-started, India cajoled an opportunity in the 48th minute. Rahim Ali brought the ball down inside the box and passed it to an onrushing Abdul Sahal, who failed to hit the target from outside the box.

Restricting the opponent in the half for much of the second half, India had a chance in the 60th minute and once again it fell to Sarthak, who this time headed wide from a Vinit Rai free-kick.

India tried to keep Tajikistan on the back foot but could not find the decisive goal. Tajikistan held on to its slender lead and committed bodies in defence. The opponent scored through Solehov in the 85th minute and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read 2-0 in its favour.