Pathum Thani (Thailand): India went down 0-1 against Uzbekistan in their second Group D match of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup at the Thammasat Stadium, in Pathum Thani, Thailand, here on Tuesday.
Substitute Mukhammedali Reimov netted the only goal of the match to seal victory for Uzbekistan.
Coming into the match after a draw against Vietnam, India head coach Bibiano Fernandes made one change to his starting XI, putting striker Thanglalsoun Gangte into the mix, in place of Akash Tirkey.
It was a much different affair from India’s first match against Vietnam. The Uzbekistan side looked a confident bunch after having held defending champions Japan 1-1 in their last game. They controlled large swathes of the field through the first half against India, whose efforts to orchestrate counter-attacks were thwarted on most occasions.
It was Uzbekistan that made the first attack and India goalkeeper Sahil Poonia was called into action as early as the 12th minute when Oybek Urmonjonov pulled the trigger from long range.
The Indians opted for a defensive strategy and were intent to sit back and absorb the pressure deep in their own half as Uzbekistan piled on the pressure. However the Indian defence, for the most part, kept the Uzbek attackers outside their area, restricting their attempts from long-range.
Sherzodbek Abdulboriev and Ollabergan Karimov had a couple of close attempts as the match ticked on beyond 20 minutes, but their efforts went narrowly ‘ide.
India’s first real chance of the game came just a minute ahead of the half-hour mark when Lalpekhkua Ralte broke fast on the counter and sent an aerial cross from the left to Korou Singh, who was running in at the far post. The India captain swung his left-footed volley with perfection, but it was palmed away by Uzbekistan goalkeeper Muhammadyusuf Sobirov.
Uzbekistan forward Shodiyor Shodiboev had, what could be termed the best chance of the first half when he weaved past his marker into the box and slapped a left-footer towards the bottom corner, but it went inches wide of the near post.
With the team crowding their half, India striker Gangte cut a forlorn figure up front for the most part but showed a lot of heart to keep the Uzbekistan back line on their feet. He raised the Indian hopes in injury time of the first half, when he got in the way of Sobirov’s clearance. The ball rolled across an open goal, but the latter was close enough to collect it.
Danny Meitei had one last effort for India in the first half when he was played in between the lines by Vanlalpeka Guite, but his shot was straight at the keeper.
India looked a bit more lively in the second half, though Uzbekistan enjoyed majority possession of the ball. Substitute Dilshod Abdulaev came inches close to scoring after the restart, but his header went wide.
Fernandes introduced a couple of chances soon after, bringing on Rohen Singh in place of Lalpekhlua Ralte in the 57th minute, before making a double substitution to bring on Shashwat Panwar and Akash Tirkey in place of Thanglalsoun Gangte and Danny Meitei in the 63rd.
Akash’s introduction brought some life into India’s game as he looked to link up with Ricky on the left and create opportunities. However, it was Uzbekistan who took the lead in the 82nd, as substitute Mukhammedali Reimov scored with a right-footed volley.
That changed the momentum of the match, as India went searching for the equaliser. A last-minute free-kick from the left was sent into the near post by Gogocha Chungkham, towards Shashwat, but the latter’s left-footed flick on, presumably towards the far post, was not executed with perfection, and Uzbekistan prevailed.