A valiant Indian football Team went down fighting 0-2 against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their second league match of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 campaign in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. Khaflan Mubarak’s struck in the 41st minute after which Ali Mabkhout put the game to bed in 88th min for UAE and ensured that the host country continues their dominance over the Blue Tigers. However, Sunil Chhetri and his boys fought hard and did not surrender until the final whistle, defending with their lives and committing to every tackle. But despite having more number of shots on goal and hitting the bar twice India had to succumb to a bitter defeat. With this win UAE rocket to the top of the table with four points in two games. India at least needs to secure a draw against Bahrain to stay in the race for the round of 16.
In the first half, UAE enjoyed the majority of the possession but it was India who was winning the midfield battles and had more the shots on goal (3-1) than their opponents.
The first chance of the match came as early as in the 13th minute when Ashique was one on one with the goalkeeper but was denied by the keeper. Sunil Chhetri almost gave the breakthrough with another header but once again the keeper stood tall to deny the Blue Tigers.
In the 41st minute, UAE scored against the run of play courtesy of a calm finish by Khaflan Mubarak with the right foot which ended right into the top corner. UAE’s strategy of using the long ball came to good effect as the Indian defence was split wide open which led to the opening goal.
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 nowhere 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 ricocheted off the bar. But UAE got their act together and defended stoically. In the dying embers of the second half, Mabkhout sealed the deal with another emphatic finish. India still remains in the hunt for a knockout berth with three points from two outings.