Football is a game of fine margins and the India U-23 team learned it the hard way in its Group G match against hosts China PR in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers at Dalian Suoyuwan Stadium on Saturday.
The valiant effort put up by Clifford Miranda’s determined squad didn’t prove to be enough as they found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline due to a few momentary lapses at the back.
After a neck-to-neck battle for more than an hour, in which the Indians did a commendable job, the deadlock was broken in the 68th minute when Vibin Mohanan conceded a penalty off a sliding tackle, easily converted by China’s captain Tao Qianglong.
However, India managed to level the score in the 92nd minute thanks to an own goal by China. Narender Gehlot took a smart low drive from a melee and the ball hit China’s Hu Hetao before rolling into the net.
Just when it seemed the match was heading for a draw, China’s Naibijiang Mohemaiti struck the winning goal in the 96th minute, leaving the Indian team a dejected lot.
This defeat was particularly significant after India’s opening match was cancelled due to The Maldives’ last-minute withdrawal from the tournament. As a result, Group G featured only three teams, India, UAE, and hosts China PR.
With this loss, India faces a tough challenge to qualify from the group. China’s victory propelled It to the top of the group with four points, while India is yet to earn a point.
To have any hope of qualifying, India must secure a substantial win against the UAE on September 12 and rely on favourable results in other matches.
India’s final group match will be against the UAE on Tuesday, September 12.
- Inputs from AIFF
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