In their second match in the AFC U-16 Championships, India earned their first points as they played out a stalemate against Syria with both sides coming close to win it. India had narrowly gone down in their first match against Uzbekistan 3-2.
India almost got on the scoresheet in the sixth minute when Arjit Lalramzuava, the skipper's free kick beat the goalkeeper easily but was stopped by the post as it bounced out.
Just three minutes later, India had another chance but neither Sarthak Golui nor striker Uttam Rai could get at the end of the long ball, as the Syria custodian, Khaled Ibrahim gathered the ball.
The skipper got in the act again in the thirty-first minute as his curling cross seemed to evade all the blue shirts in the box in what could have been an easy tap in. Just before the interval, Daniel Lalhimpuia who played alongside Rai up front beat Khalid as he went one-on-one but hesitated and lost his opportunity.
After the break, it was Syria who seized the match as they pressed the Indians hard into their own area as the Blue Tigers' resorted to long balls. The defenders too seemed to bypass the midfield as they were brought under a lot of pressure and had to thump the ball clear on many occasions.
In the 50th minute however, Alen Deory won the ball expertly on the right wing and ran past the defender and let loose a fierce drive which Khalid kept out somehow. Unfortunately Rai could not get at the end of the loose ball as he was well marshalled by Syrian defender, Jehad Bssmar.
Amidst concerted Syrian pressure, Supratim Bhattacharya had to pull off a couple of good saves but the chance of the match fell to Rai in the seventy-third minute. After a long clearance from the defense, he beat his marker and controlled the ball deftly before beating the onrushing Khalid. However he hesitated far too long before pulling the trigger with an open goal in front of him. He was challenged by the defender who tacked back and the chance went begging.
The Indians had to absorb further pressure from the Central Asians in the dying minutes of the match but held strong and managed to earn a point.
With Syria playing Uzbekistan next and India up against China, a win against them will certainly allow them to qualify as the second ranked team if Uzbekistan do not lose to Syria.
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