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AFC U-23 Olympic Qualifiers: India squander chances, lose 2-0 to Uzbekistan

The Indian U-23 football team lost their first match of the 2016 AFC Olympic qualifiers to Uzbekistan 2-0 after they squandered a lot of chances to win the game.

The Indian U-23 football team prior to kickoff

India’s opening match of the qualification campaign for the 2016 Rio Olympics started off on a losing note, as the Indian U-23 team lost to Uzbekistan 2-0 in a group E match of the AFC qualifiers held in Dhaka. 

Goals in the 86th minute and 90th minute helped the Uzbeks get a 2-0 win, in a match that saw the injury-hit Indians create a lot of chances, which they failed to capitalise upon. The gulf in class was evident by the end as the much higher-ranked Uzbekistan took the victory. 

India fail to convert their chances in first-half

The first half saw the Indians go forward with great initiative, as they looked to get the breakthrough. As early as the seventh minute, the Indian team saw Ruidas’ corner scrambled off the line by the Uzbekistan goalkeeper Akmal. Around the 15th minute, Jayesh Rane’ speculative effort was saved very well by Akmal. 

Soon enough, another long-range effort from Germanpreet Singh went close to breaking the deadlock, but the score remained 0-0. The most controversial moment of the half came when Rane was thought to have been brought down inside the box, but India’s penalty appeals were waved off. 

Uzbekistan too had a free-kick from a dangerous position, but Boburbek’s attempt was straight at the wall. Another attempt from Uzbekistan was saved when Pritam Kotal made a last-ditch tackle to thwart the danger. 

Uzbekistan strike late in second half to take the win

The first major chance fell to India, as Rane’s cross from the right almost caught out Akmal. Right after that, Germanpreet had a go from long-range again, with Akmal fisting his shot to safety. 

Soon after that, Uzbekistan hit the post, as a cross from the left caused a lot of problems in the Indian defence. Holicharan Nazary had a great chance to give India the lead, but he failed to get his shot on target after a good run. 

Another chance for India went abegging, as BIkramjit’s header from about 6 yards out went narrowly wide. Following that, Uzbekistan went close twice, as Amrinder made a good save to deny them, following which the rebound hit the post. They then had the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a foul. 

The Indians brought on Haokip and Manish Bhargav for Nazary and Vinit to get some attacking impetus in their search for the winner. Amrinder kept the Indians in the game by making crucial saves. 

However, tragedy struck, when he couldn’t hold on to a cross properly, which was put in by Boburbek to give Uzbekistan a 1-0 lead in the 86th minute. Then in the 90th minute, another defensive mistake saw the Uzbekistanis capitalise and score to clinch the match 2-0.

A good Indian performance that should have seen them get at least a draw, if not a win, to start their performance. However, the end of the match was quite familiar as they just ran out of steam against a much superior and higher-ranked (100 places in the FIFA rankings) Uzbekistan. India next face Syria on Sunday, the 29th of March. 

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