India put a cohesive display to hold Syria to a 1-1 draw in its final outing of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, here at the EKA Arena on Tuesday. Narender Gahlot found the target for India while Firas AlKhatib got the equaliser for Syria.
The result saw Tajikistan and DPR Korea progressing to the final with six points each as Syria (four points) fell out of contention with India (one point) exiting earlier.
India’s gritty resistance kept Syria off the scoreboard in the first half. Head coach Igor Stimac fielded a side that appeared to be the best combination he could deduce from the two performances his side put up against Tajikistan and DPR Korea.
With Adil Khan suspended (two bookings) and Sandesh Jhingan injured, Stimac tried a new combination in the defence starting young Narendar Gahlot and Rahul Bheke in the middle, while Pritam Kotal and Mandar Rao Dessai played as full-backs.
The midfield saw the return of Lallianzuala Chhangte, Anirudh Thapa, Samad Abdul Samad and Udanta Singh- who joined Amarjit Singh Kiyam. Captain Sunil Chhetri manned the attack, while Gurpreet Singh Sandhu regained his position in the goal.
Needing a win to secure a spot in the final, Syria pushed for an early lead up as India soaked up the initial onslaughts of the opponent keeping a good shape at the back-line. Sandhu had to clear an attempt by the Syrian striker Mohammad Almarmour in the third minute but that appeared a stray incident.
India regrouped quickly and almost found the lead in the sixth minute when Udanta essayed a fine cross across the Syrian goalmouth which Samad and Chhangte failed to tap home in tandem.
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Following a barren first half, India returned with more purpose after the break and overtook its more fancied opponent in creating chances and found the break in the 52nd minute when Narendar Gahlot jumped above his marker to nod home the goal from a corner.
This was his first goal in the second appearance for the country as India set out to find its first win of the tournament.
India held on to the lead till the 77th minute when the referee pointed to the dreaded spot to have Firas Alakhatib score the equaliser from the penalty, after Jerry Lalrinzuala brought down Ahmad Alahmad inside the box.
The result meant India finished last in the tournament with one point.
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