India U-16 boys hold Iran to 0-0 draw

An Indian team avoided defeat against Iran for the first time in 33 years, as a staunch defense gave India a goalless draw against Iran in the AFC U-16 Championship.

While India relied on counter-attacks, Iran resorted to set pieces but both teams were unsuccesful in creating many chances.   -  AIFF Media Team

India U-16 national team held Iran to a goalless draw at the Bulkit Jalil stadium in Malaysia, at the AFC U-16 Championships on Monday.

This was the first time after the Asia Cup finals in 1984 that an Indian team across all age groups avoided defeat against Iran. That match too had ended goalless.

India's pressing football was backed by a strong defense and some quick counter attacks. Despite Iran seeing more of the ball, India was able to create two clear goal-scoring opportunities in the dying embers of the second half. Ravi Rana missed the first chance when his chip went inches over the Iranian goal. Sailo beat Iran's goalkeeper but squandered the chance when he sent his shot from close range, wide.

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Niraj Kumar displayed a mature and match-saving performance in goal as kept out an Iranian penalty in the 76th minute. He also pulled off a stunning save in the 16th minute, diving full length to deny Iran an early lead.

The Indian midfield was as stubborn as the back-four in a superb display of tactical football.

“We could have won the match. It was that close. But the boys gave their hundred percent on the pitch and they performed according to the game plan”, said India U-16s head coach Bibiano Fernandes. “We are happy with a draw, though we aimed for a win and now we focus on the next match against Indonesia.”

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While India relied on counters, Iran resorted to set pieces but both teams were unsuccesful in creating many chances.

The Indian colts created an opportunity in the 35th minute, but Ridge De’Mello’s shot from outside of the box went inches wide of the goal. India came into the second-half in an attacking fame of mind. It threatened Iran in the early minutes of the half but Iran's defence proved too tough to beat. Just after the penalty save from Niraj in the 76th minute, Ravi’s shot from more than 30 yards caught Iran's goalkeeper napping but whistled past the goal.

India's biggest woe from the match was defender Shahbas Ahammed being stretchered off following an injury in the 66th minute. He was replaced by Harpreet Singh.

The India U-16 boys face Indonesia next in the AFC U-16 Championship on Thursday in their last match of the group stage. India has four points from two games so far.

India’s starting XI against Iran: Niraj Kumar (GK); Shahbas Ahammed (66’ – Harpreet Singh), Thoiba Singh, Bikash Yumnam, Gurkirat Singh; Ravi Rana, Givson Singh (74’ – L.Sailo), Ricky Shabong, Vikram Singh (C), Bekey Oram, Ridge De’Mello (83’ – Harpreet).


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