India couldn't repeat the heroics of their opening win against Oman as they went down 1-0 to hosts UAE in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers. This Group E clash took place at the Fujairah City Stadium in Fujairah, UAE.
The hosts, who lost 1-2 to Kyrgyzstan in their first match, were desperate for three points. They needed the win to remain in the hunt for qualification to the AFC U23 Asian Cup.
They started the game on the front foot, troubling the Indian defense and forcing Dheeraj Singh into a couple of smart saves. India had the ball in the back of the net through Rahul KP although the goal was rightly chalked off for offside.
The hosts finally got their break after a cagey second half when Suresh Singh handled the ball in the box, with the referee awarding UAE a penalty. They duly converted it to boost their chances of qualifying for the AFC U23 Asian Cup. The game ended 1-0 with both sides creating little of note after the goal.
India U23 Player Ratings:
Dheeraj Singh: 8/10
The FC Goa keeper played very well in this game, denying UAE on more than one occasion. He was especially good in his one-on-ones and will be crucial to India's hopes in their final AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyz Republic.
Narender Gahlot: 7/10
A much better showing this time around, as Gahlot was aggressive and nipped UAE attacks in the bud. This partnership with Tangri could hold promising signs for the future.
Deepak Tangri: 7/10
The centre-back was a rock in defense again as he repelled several attempts by the UAE forwards to get in behind the backline.
Asish Rai: 7/10
The Hyderabad FC right-back showed boundless energy as he ran up and down the touchline. Put in a crucial last-ditch block to prevent a potential one-on-one opportunity against Dheeraj.
Akash Mishra: 6/10
He huffed and puffed all night, but not his best showing in a blue shirt. His forays forward were limited by the pressure exerted by the UAE forward line.
Jeakson Thounaojam: 5/10
Another middling performance by the Blasters midfielder. He ran and he ran, but was unable to make a major impact in midfield and struggled to win the ball back.
Coming off the back of an injury, Apuia was at his defensive best as he intercepted the ball time and again in midfield. Played a few key passes as well, in a good all-round performance.
Suresh Wangjam: 4/10
A poor outing for the Bengaluru FC midfielder, who barely exerted any control in midfield. To make things worse, he gave away the penalty for the winning goal.
Rahul KP: 5/10
Lots of energy on the wings, but nothing to show for it. This has been the story of Rahul KP's AFC U23 Asian Cup qualification campaign so far.
Vikram Partap: 6/10
A livewire on the right flank yet again. The Mumbai City man keeps going from strength to strength in this AFC U23 Asian Cup qualification campaign.
Rahim Ali: 5/10
The striker was isolated throughout the game and barely had any touches of the ball. He will hope to do better in India's final AFC U23 Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan.
Sumit Rathi: 4/10
Came on for Vikram and played as an auxiliary left-back. Huge error in the build-up to the penalty, which ended up costing India the match.
Princeton Rebello: 6/10
Looked comfortable on the ball after coming on. Played a few good passes in midfield and should get more minutes in India's next match at the U23 Asian Cup qualifiers.
Amarjit Kiyam: 5/10
A few fouls after coming on but no contribution of note from the East Bengal man.
Aniket Jadhav: N/A
A late introduction.
Rohit Danu: N/A
A very short cameo.