FULL-TIME: India 0-2 UAE
UAE: [Khalfan Mubarak 41′; Ali Mabkhout 88′]
The Blue Tigers on the back of their stunning win against Thailand in their opening Group A encounter started the game on the front foot and with the same playing XI.
India pressed higher up on the pitch in the first half and the forwards Sunil Chhetri and Ashique Kuruniyan closed down quickly to cut out access to midfield. With the Indian defence higher up on the pitch in a mid-block setup, the Emirati team struggled to get a hold in the game and their attempts at goal were hopeful and from distance.
On the other hand, India created chances at will in the first half. Anirudh Thapa’s delivery from a corner saw Sandesh Jhingan shoot a free header off-target. Sunil Chhetri headed straight to the keeper from a Thapa cross while Ashique Kuruniyan saw his shot saved from a 1v1 situation.
The inability to score off a bagful of chances and a simple ball over the Indian defence proved costly as India conceded in the 41st minute.
A long ball launched into the Indian defensive area saw Anas Edathodika fail to take control and cede possession to an oncoming Ali Makhbout who sprinted past the defender and squared the ball to Khalfan Mubarak who made a quick darting run and scored past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who did not anticipate the shot. This was UAE’s first shot on target and a single defensive lapse resulted in a goal.
Sunil Chhetri had a chance to equalise immediately after with the UAE keeper out of sorts, but he shot just wide off the post.
The UAE team went into the break 1-0 up and with confidence restored after coming out on tops in
India got Jeje in for Halicharan Narzary at half-time and looked ready to chase the game. Early in the second half, Udanta Singh saw his shot come off the post and the signs looked ominous with UAE progressively stamping their authority in the game.
Majed Hassan came in as a substitution for UAE and immediately shored up their midfield. The Indian team who were visibly tired after their high-press effort in the first half looked out of ideas and mentally fatigued.
The Indian substitutions did not help the cause either. Jeje was ineffectual and Balwant Singh would’ve been the better choice of player considering India were expecting to hold the ball upfront in the second half.
Rowllin Borges who was subbed in for Anirudh Thapa never really settled into the game while Jackichand Singh for Udanta Singh was a strange one as Udanta unsettled the Emiratis whenever he got on the ball and has the tenacity to run all game long.
Yet another long ball resulted in India conceding their second goal of the game in the 88th minute with Pritam Kotal affording time and space for the UAE forward Ali Mabkhbout to pick his spot and shoot.
The defeat doesn’t mean the end of the road for the Indian team and they are in still in contention to qualify for the round of 16. They take on Bahrain next in their final Group A encounter on the Jan. 14th and a point or three should be enough to secure passage into the next round.
Pre-match predictions suggested a total annihilation for the Indian team, but the Blue Tigers held their own and stood toe to toe with their much-fancied opponents. Tactically, they played cohesively and with a plan and were unlucky not to get
They will however need to sort out their defensive lapses and work on finishing off chances before their crucial tie against Bahrain.