An unimpressive display by India U-23 Men’s Football contingent saw them surrender without a fight to United Arab Emirates as they went down 0-5 in their opening Group G match in the Asian Games in Incheon.
The winners, who scored the first three goals within 20 minutes, led 3-0 at the interval.
Rival skipper Saeed Alkatheeri notched up a hat-trick which included two Headers with the Indian defenders looking helplessly. Al Ahbabi scored a brace to complete the rout.
The Indian side lacked vision on the field. There wasn’t much understanding while defending; there wasn’t much understanding either while attacking. The series of mispasses, the ineffectiveness on the wings and the sluggish midfield losing almost every battle for the ball made matters tough as a ruthless UAE took control.
All the goals were conceded from counter attacks with the India back four of Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhinghan, Joyner Lourenco and Narayan Das lacking cohesion.
It all started in the 14th minute when Alkatheeri stooped low to his left and tucked in a cross from the right. Two minutes on, the Captain was at it again this time diving acrobatically to meet a cross from the same area.
It was 3-0 by the 20th minute when Al Ahbabi converted from close.
Stung, India tried to fight back. Sunil had a penalty appeal turned down after he was hacked down inside the area, while right back Pritam tried his luck from 35 yards with a stinging effort which the keeper somehow clung on to.
Changing over, any slim hope of a daunting comeback went up in smoke when four minutes into the hour mark the 2012 Olympics Qualifying Team rode their flying No 10 to the fourth goal. Alkatheeri slid in to guide the ball in between Amrinder’s legs after a good pass from the right channel once again found him at the right place.
Coach Wim Koevermans ringed in a change in the hope of some pride to be restored with Shillong Lajong’s Seminlen Doungel replacing ineffective Dempo man Mandar Rao Desai in the 72nd minute. The former East Bengal forward almost made an immediate impact with an angular effort that flew inches over the frame.
Captain Sunil followed him on moments later getting on the end of a delectable ball from the defence. But uncharacteristically the AIFF Player of the Year’s shot was meek giving the advancing keeper no problems whatsoever.
UAE notched their fifth in the dying minutes of the one sided tie, this time Al Ahbabi riding luck to his double when his tamely drilled attempt past Amrinder was helped on its way by Sandesh on the goalline.
India next play Jordan on September 22.
INDIA: Amrinder Singh, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhinghan, Joyner Lourenco, Narayan Das, Pronay Halder (Lalrindika Ralte – 12th), Siam Hanghal, Francis Fernandes, Mandar Rao Deasi (Seminlen Doungel – 72nd), Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh.
– An AIFF Report