Tehran, Sept 23 (IBNS): Uzbekistan on Sunday defeated India 3-2 in a match of the Under 16 Asian Cup at the Rah Ayan Stadium in Tehran.
Uttam Rai scored both goals for India bringing India to equalise on both occasions and, both were headers. If the first was off a feint from the corner of the inner box, for the other, he jumped in between the two rival stoppers to meet substitute Raja Rawat’s cross.
But Uzbekistan, coming into the Championship with an experience of more than 34 International Matches in the last eight months, managed to hold on as they prevailed 3-2. For Uzbekistan, Odilov Mukhiddin, Abdullaev Ibrokhim and substitute Abdiganiyev Ilhomjon scored one apiece.
Character was on display as India, a goal down twice, came back to frustrate strong contenders Uzbekistan – the same team to whom they had lost 0-9 in the qualifiers last year in Tashkent.
The blocking in the midfield and the initiation in the second half was commendable. So much so, that Uzbekistan, quite dominant in the first half, almost lost the plot.
In the first half, India began on a positive note trying to seize the initiative early. In the 6th minute, striker Daniel Lalhimpuia anticipated well and latched on a loose ball but the rival goalkeeper Eshbutaev Shokrukhjon recovered well in time to palm his intended overhead lob.
Off the counter, India conceded – Odilov Mukhiddin sneaking in between to beat Supratim Bhattacharya off a first timer.
Such early goals are bound to deflate a team’s morale, especially if they stay 15-year olds. But the Indian boys didn’t crumble.
Uzbekistan did enjoy more territorial domination but were able to open up much. The Uzbek boys, sharp and with an experience of over 24 International matches moved fast but failed to break through.
They did test Supratim on a couple of occasions from far but the Indian was agile enough.
Regrouped, the Indians pressed and in the process of earned a number of free-kicks in the Uzbek half but they managed to hold onto the one-goal lead till the interval.
Changing over, India equalised almost immediately when Uttam Rai headed in Daniel Lalhimpuia’s freekick from the corner of the inner box.
But it couldn’t last long as in the 53rd minute, Abdullaev Ibrokhim converted from the spot after the referee felt Myron Mendes had brought down Odilov inside the box.
Seven minutes later, India suffered a jolt in the 60th minute when captain Lalramzuava had to be replaced for a calf and hamstring cramp. Lalramzuava was by then, marshalling the midfield with confidence, which had pushed the Uzbeks onto the backfoot.
Uzbekistan sealed the fate of the match in the 80th minute when Ilhomjon volleyed in a low cross from the right. For the last ten minutes, India went all out. But it wasn’t enough to break through.
As the boys dragged themselves to the team bus ending up yet another time on the other side of a close counter which could have garnered them a point, appreciation flew from the crowd.
The irony stays the final whistle remembers only the result.