India’s AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers campaign ended on a disappointing note as they suffered a 3-0 defeat to the UAE. As a result, the bowed out of the tournament without a single win.
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With the pool reduced to three teams due to the late withdrawal of the Maldives, India needed to secure a convincing win against either China or UAE to keep their hopes alive. This was especially important after a last-minute goal led to their loss against China.
However, UAE thwarted India’s aspirations with a 3-0 victory at Dalian Sports Centre Stadium, sealing India’s last-place finish in Group G. It’s worth noting that India had earlier upset hosts China with a 2-1 win.
The clash between India and UAE on Tuesday was a decisive one for both teams. A win by a margin of two or more goals would have secured the top spot in Group G for UAE in the AFC U-23 Asian Cup 2024 Qualifiers. On the other hand, India needed three points to have a chance of qualifying as one of the top four second-placed teams out of the 11 groups.
With their 3-0 win, UAE claimed the top spot in Group G with four points and a superior goal difference. China, also finishing with four points, still holds an outside chance of advancing to the next round as one of the top four second-placed teams.
Both teams began the match at brisk pace which saw a physical contest. Jiteshwor Singh received a booking around the 15-minute mark for a tackle in the middle of the field.
The UAE broke the deadlock in the 26th minute as Indian defenders appeared confused during a goalmouth scramble. Following a prolonged discussion between the referee and his assistant, Mohammed Abbas Alblooshi was credited with the goal.
The UAE extended their lead just three minutes after the half-hour mark when Sultan Adil Alameeri’s low shot from inside the box found the back of the net.
Seeing the game slip away, the Indian team attempted to build attacking moves by circulating the ball around the pitch. However, the UAE defence managed to thwart their efforts.
In the second half, India aimed to exert more pressure on the UAE defence. Substitutes Rabeeh Anjukandan and Sourav then came in Sanjeev Stalin and Parthib Gogoi.
Nonetheless, the UAE adopted a defensive stance, waiting for opportunities to launch counter-attacks. Eisa Khalfan capitalised on a long ball from goalkeeper Hamad Abdulla Almeqbaali to make it 3-0.
India made further substitutions, including Rohit Danu and Ayush Chhetri, but struggled to break through UAE’s defense. Siva Sakthi had a notable chance in injury time, but UAE’s goalkeeper, Almeqbaali, pulled off an impressive save to deny him. In the end, India exited the championship with a 3-0 loss.