By Derek Michael
Having lost the first leg 3-0 in Abu Dhabi, it was a near-impossible task for India to upset the 1990 World Cuppers, but Armando Colaco’s boys did not disappoint the home crowd.
UAE led 1-0 at half time and doubled the lead in the 71st minute. Jeje scored in the 74th minute to make it 2-1 and then Gourmangi Singh clinched the equalizer in stoppage time.
The Bhangra Boys kicked-off the match in an attacking fashion but were unable to convert the chances that came their way on a rain-soaked pitch.
Sunil Chhetri, Steven Dias and Gouramangi Singh took attempts at the goal, but were unable to beat the UAE goalkeeper.
It was in the 39th minute when Ahmed Khalil gave a perfect cross for Mohamed Al Shehi to slot in from close range.
Till then UAE found it tough to find their target.
The second half started with the Indians on the attack. Chhetri got the best chance in the opening minutes to score, but UAE keeper Ali Khaseif denied him. In the 71st minute, Ali Al Wahaibi scored the second for the visitors in the 71st minute.
Jeje gave the Indians something to cheer about when he scored in the 74th minute. The goal galvanized the Indians and they were rewarded in the dying seconds. Gouramangi made it 2-2 after a scrappy duel in the UAE box.
Indian coach Colaco is not disappointed with his boys. "The second leg was a good match. I am happy with the way the team showed character while playing. I couldn’t have asked anything else from the boys. Jeje and Gouramangi were very impressive and the future is bright for this team," said Colaco in a post-match chat.
Whatever the future might hold, the Indian team got a standing ovation for being able to give the Arabs a run for their money.
UAE’s Slovenia’s coach Srecko Katanec paid tribute to the Full House at the Ambedkar. “In UAE, we hardly get any crowd in a match. But here, the crowd inspired Team India to play to their potential. It’s a positive sign no doubt.”
India: Karanjit Singh; Samir Naik, Gourmangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Raju Gaikwad, Rahim Nabi; Steven Dias (Lalrindika Ralte), Mehtab Hossain, Climax Lawrence (C), Clifford Miranda (Jewel Raja); Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpeklua.
UAE: Al Khaseif; Walid Abbas, Hamdan Al Kamali, Yousef Jaber; Amer Abdul Rahaman, Ali Al Wehabi, Amir Mubarak; Khalid Sebil, Mohamed Al Shehhi, Ahmed Khalil, Ismail Hammadi.