India suffered a humbling 2-0 loss at the hands of the United Arab Emirates today in the second group game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.
Goals from Ali Mabkhout and Khalfan Mubarak in the 41st and the 88th minute helped the hosts register their first win of the tournament after a 1-1 draw against Bahrain in the tournament opener on Saturday.
India were clinical in front of goal during their impressive 4-1 win over Thailand on Sunday but their finishing was far from impressive earlier in the day against higher-ranked UAE, who walked away with three points.
India have now slipped to the second spot of the Group A table while the hosts, who were cheered on by more than a 40,000-strong crowd in Abu Dhabi topped the group.
As many as three chances went begging in the first half. Ashique Kurniyan’s left-footed effort and Sunil Chhetri’s header from a brilliant cross from Sunil Chettri was kept away by UAE goalkeeper, Khalid Essa who was brilliant throughout the match.
UAE put early pressure on India by creating a few chances in the opening minutes of the match but India quickly managed to organise themselves and find their feet.
Three huge chances went begging but credit should go to UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa who dnied Ashique Kuruniyan and Sunil Chhetri in the first half. Chhetri rued the missed chance as he was unmarked at the far post when Anirudh Thapa swung it in nicely only to see his captain head it straight into the body of Essa.
India continued to be impressive in the mid-field as well but their finishing boots were missing on the big day. They paid the price for it when Mubarak scored his first international goal to give the hosts the lead just break the half-time break.
Entering the game after a 1-1 stalemate with Bahrain, UAE required full points full points, and the relief was palpable in their camp when Mubarak broke the deadlock.
The joy would have been short-lived for the home team had the talismanic Chhetri’s attempt not missed the target by a whisker in the 43rd minute, this after the Indian captain had the UAE defenders in splits and managed to cut one through one of the gaps with Eisa noweher in the picture.
Down by a goal at the break, India were not to be disheartened and made their intentions clear in the second half.
Constantine brought in Jeje Lalpekhlua in place of Halicharan Narzary and the Mizo forward, who scored two minutes after coming off the bench in the 4-1 mauling of Thailand, nearly did an encore in the 53rd minute. Jeje’s volley went inches off the post.
Three minutes later, India again experienced the so-near-yet-so-far moment when Udanta Singh’s shot ricochets off the bar. UAE got their act together and troubled the Indians occasionally and they also had one of their attempts blocked by the bar.
We are ready to fight against Bahrain: Chhetri
“It was a tight game. UAE are a good side, and they converted their chances. When you get your chances, you got to convert them. If we could have taken ours, it could have been different. We are still in the running. As a team, we are united and we are ready to fight, and that’s what we are going to do against Bahrain,” Chhetri said.
India knew that they had a tough task in hand against the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who were not only the better-ranked team than them but also had the huge home support from the crowd.
UAE are ranked 79th in the FIFA rankings while India are positioned at 97th. Even in Asia, India (ranked 15th) are seven places below UAE (ranked 8th). More than the battle of the quality of football and the skills, it was always going to be about the physicality.
Against Thailand, India had shown no nerves early on in the match and only because Thailand failed to make the best of their opportunities, India stayed in the fight and eventually toppled their opponents.