U17 World Cup: India 1-2 Colombia: Hosts' knockout dreams fade away despite Jeakson's historic goal
Juan Penaloza's brace on either side of what was India's first ever goal in a FIFA tournament by Jeakson Singh Thounaojam meant India remained winless

India were defeated 1-2 by Colombia in their second Group A game of the 2017 FIFA U17 World Cup at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Monday.

Juan Penaloza's (49' 83') brace sandwiched what was India's first ever goal in a FIFA tournament by Jeakson Singh Thounaojam (82').

Luis Norton de Matos made four changes to the starting line-up that played against the USA in the opening encounter. Namit Deshpande replaced Jitendra Singh in central defense while Boris Thangjam returned from his suspension to line up as the right-back. Komal Thatal was dropped in favour as Rahul Kannoly started on the left flank, while Jeakson Singh paired up with captain Amarjit Singh Kiyam in central midfield. The sturdy Rahim Ali was given the nod ahead of Aniket Yadav upfront as the colts lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

Colombia, on the other hand, were ready to attack from the word go as they changed their usual 4-2-3-1 to a 3-2-4-1, trying to bag full three points after losing their first match. The initial few minutes saw both sides scramble to hold onto the ball even as the travellers tried a few long-rangers, which sailed well above the bar.

The first real chance of the game was created by the home side on the 16th minute as Abhijit Sarkar played a neat one-two with Ninthoinganba Meetei and dribbled past a couple of half-hearted challenges into the box. He, however, had made the angle too acute with his face away from the goal, as the resultant shot was blocked by Kevin Mier.

At the other end, Yadir Meneses, who marshalled the midfield, tested Dheeraj Singh from a free-kick outside the box, but the Manipur lad was alert enough to parry it diving to his left. Leandro Campaz, the prolific left-winger of the side was then fed with a cross from the right, but the Indian defense managed to clear it after a bit of scrambling.

Campaz was at the thick of things again in the 37th minute, when he tested the opponent custodian with a close-range header, but Dheeraj pulled off the best save of the first half to thwart the danger. The resulting corner came off the crossbar as India finally cleared the ball. The best move of the half, however, came in the added time when an unmarked Rahul Kannoly received a lobbed pass from Boris.

The Kerala boy unleashed a superb left-footer but was unfortunate enough to see his effort hit the post and come out. The crowd gave a standing ovation to the boys in Blue as they walked down the tunnel after a much-improved display, even after enjoying only 30% possession.

The joy though, was short-lived after the breather, as a momentary lapse of concentration from the hosts allowed Colombia to draw the first blood in the 48th minute. A cross-diagonal pass from the left found Juan Penaloza on the right edge of the box, who under no real pressure from Sanjeev Stalin, unleashed a sublime left-footed curler that went into the net past a stretched Dheeraj.

While India were the second best side on aerial battles, Norton threw Aniket Jadav into the mix to put more pressure on the Colombian defense. But Orlando Restrepo’s troop looked very composed after getting the lead, and tried to keep the ball on the turf to see off their lead.

India had a golden chance to restore parity on the 76th minute, when Aniket Jadav held the ball well in Colombian territory and played it to Nongdamba Naorem deep inside the box. The Minerva Punjab midfielder was in a great position to hit the net but hit straight at the goalkeeper instead.

On the 82nd minute, Jeakson Singh made amends for his Minerva teammate as he connected a Sanjeev Stalin header perfectly to send it into the target, becoming the first Indian ever to score a goal in a FIFA tournament. The ecstasy, though, turned into agony within two minutes.

Gustavo Carvajal’s chipped delivery from the midfield was dealt with by Penaloza, who turned inside the box to send a low shot past Dheeraj to put his side into the driving seat again.

At the end, it was another valiant display by the Indians, who had the best chances in the first half and pulled one back after the break but had to return empty-handed once again. Colombia, on the other hand, bagged their first three points and will be facing the USA next as they try to book a place in the knock-outs.

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