A Sunil Chhetri-less India conceded a late goal off a debatable penalty to miss out on its first-ever win over higher-ranked Iraq, which won 5-4 in penalties in the Kings Cup here on Thursday.
India was leading 2-1 till the 79th minute when the referee awarded a soft penalty to Iraq after its striker Aymen Ghadhban was squeezed by two defenders in the box during a tussle to get on to a high cross.
It did not look like a clear-cut penalty but Ghadhban himself stepped up to take the kick from the spot and scored to level the match 2-2 and take it to the penalty shootout.
Iraq then won 5-4 in the shootout with Brandon Fernandez failing to score as his kick hit the post and went out.
Under the tournament’s rule, the match will be decided via penalty shootout if the scores are level in the regulation time and there will be no extra time play.
It was a creditable show by the Indian team, which was without its talismanic striker and captain Chhetri, who missed the tournament due to personal reasons. India played on equal terms against Iraq, ranked 70th in the FIFA chart (as against its 99th), for the most part of the semifinal match.
Earlier, Mahesh Naorem had given India the lead in the 16th minute before Karim Ali equalised in the 28th minute, also from a penalty goal.
India took the lead in the 51st minute with Iraq captain and goalkeeper Jalal Hasan conceding an own goal with a howler of an effort.
Iraq was reduced to 10 men in the injury stoppage time as Zidane Iqbal was sent off for elbowing Brandon Fernandez but India could not capitalise much on that as the regulation time ended within a minute and there was no extra time of play.
The loss ended India’s 11-match unbeaten streak this year.
India had played seven matches against Iraq earlier with the ‘Lions of Mesopotamia’ winning six times, while one game had ended in a draw. The two teams played last in November 2010 in an international friendly match when Iraq won 2-0.
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