AFC Asian Cup 2019: India denied by the crossbar twice as hosts UAE run out 2-0 winners

Asian Cup India UAE

India were left to rue a handful of missed chances as hosts United Arab Emirates (UAE) recorded a 2-0 victory over the Blue Tigers at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. 

Goals from Khalfan Mubarak and Ali Mabkhout helped UAE to take the top sport in Group A with four points while India sit second tied on three points with Thailand but with a superior goal difference.

India began the game as the brighter of the two sides and took the game to the hosts. They were winning the midfield battle and on once such occasion in the 11th minute, Chhetri won possession and didn’t waste any time to release Ashique who beat the UAE defender for pace, but failed to beat Al Ain FC custodian Khalid Eisa at his near post!

India piled on the pressure with big burly centre-back Sandesh Jhingan failing to direct a couple of headers at goal from corner kicks in the early exchanges while UAE’s attempts were limited to a few shots from distance as they failed to break down a well-drilled Indian defensive unit.

India’s next opportunity was the closest they came in the first half when their captain Chhetri, of all people, failed to guide his close-range header into the back of the net in the 23rd minute after being found on the far post with a delightful cross by Anirudh Thapa from the right wing.

UAE finally started to pass the ball around in the Indian half after the half-hour mark and they had to wait until the 38th minute to create a first real problem for the Indian backline. But they didn’t have to wait much longer to find their opening goal undoing all of India’s good work.

Indian defence looked lax in the build up as Indian centre-backs Anas Edathodika and Jhingan allowed Mabkhout to run at them and he passed the ball to 23-year-old Al Jazira attacker Khalfan who got into the box and produced a cheeky finish from a very tight angle to score his first international goal and send the Emirati fans on the stands into delirium.

Chhetri once again went agonisingly close to scoring for India before halftime, but after getting on the end of a Gurpreet Singh Sandhu goal kick, the 34-year-old dragged his shot narrowly wide of the goal. India had three shots on target in the first half, but the hosts just managed one — but one that separated the two sides as they headed into the dressing room for the lime break.

The pattern continued in the second half as well and half-time substitute Jeje Lalpekhlua got straight into action striking a volley just over the goal. In the 55th minute, it was the woodwork that denied India as Udanta Singh got into the box after a one-two with Chhetri and fired his shot onto the crossbar!

India began to lose steam towards the later parts of the half and UAE started forcing mistakes out of their backline. Ismail Al-Hammadi passed on a good opportunity to seal the game for the hosts in the 75th minute before their experienced striker Mabkhout doubled the lead a few minutes later.

India were once again denied by the goalpost as this time it was Jhingan who headed the ball into the crossbar from a Rowlin Borges free kick in the added time of  the second half. India will feel hard done by the result, but on the brighter side, they can head into their final game against Bahrain looking for a result in this sort of form.

INDIA: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Subhashish Bose, Udanta Singh (Jackichand Singh 79′), Pronay Halder, Anirudh Thapa (Rowllin Borges 70′), Halicharan Narzary (Jeje Lalpekhlua 45′), Ashique Kuruniyan, Sunil Chhetri

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Khalid Eisa, Bandar Al-Ahbabi, Khalifa Mubarak, Ismail Ahmed, Al Hassan Saleh, Amer Abdulrahman (Mohamed Gharib 75′), Ali Salmeen, Khalfan Mubarak (Ismail Matar 85′), Khamis Esmaeel (Majed Hassan Ahmad 63′), Ismail Al-Hammadi, Ali Mabkhout