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AIFF Youth Cup: India 0-0 Korea Republic: India show heart but end hopes of third place play-offs

A point was enough for Korea Republic to qualify for the U-16 AIFF Youth Cup finals as they drew 0-0 versus a spirited India team, on Monday.

The opening ten minutes of the game were end-to-end with neither side being able to hold on to the ball for too long.

Komal Thatal had a crack at goal from 35 yards after a Korean defender lost a duel with the India number 10 and the attacking medio’s shot produced a cautious save from the goalkeeper.

Nicolai Adam’s high-press style of football kept the Koreans at bay for the majority of the early stages. India midfielder, Suresh Wangjum was winning most of his aerial and ground duels and his distribution skills were on point.

India lined up in an unconventional 4-4-2 formation, in which one of the forwards would drop into midfield when the opposition had the ball to stop Korea from playing their game.

The Blue Tigers looked the better side against all odds and had a glorious chance to get into the lead in the 20th minute but Komal Thatal chose to take a shot on goal from a tight angle instead of feeding Aman Chhetri’s incoming run after the former did impeccably well to beat three defenders.

India did not have too many clear-cut chances but they had more conviction than Korea. They defended well in key areas of the pitch and the frustration was evident in the Koreans' display.

Korea had a shot at goal completely against the run of play on the cusp of half-time but, Mohammad Nawaz pulled out an acrobatic save from point-blank range to deny Joung Sungjune.

India completely dominated the first half. Their movement and passing was better than it has been in this tournament so far and at half-time, a score-line of 0-0 would have made Nicolai Adam feel more upbeat than he was at kick-off.

The host country began the second half the way they left the first, stretching Korea with their movement and putting crosses into dangerous areas.

Substitute Aniket Jadhav came on and almost made an impact immediately, as he ran down the right channel on the counter-attack, checked back onto his left foot to shoot at goal and his attempt from distance had the Korean goalie worried for a moment.

Jadhav had yet another two shots at goal from distance in the 66th and 67th minute and both times, it shaved the crossbar. At this stage of the game, India looked the more likely side to break the deadlock and Nicolai Adam’s move to bring on a striker in Aniket Jadhav to replace the injured winger Sanjeev Stalin was a sign of his intentions at that particular point of time.

The tempo of the game dropped a couple of notches heading into the 80-minute mark but India still looked like the better side. Substitute Aniket Jadhav received his second yellow card for a challenge on Cheon Hyun Byong and India were handed the unexpected task of seeing Korea off for the remainder of the game.

At the referee’s final whistle, the game ended 0-0. The result saw Korea enter the finals as they have a better goal difference than Tanzania. 

India did exceedingly well in completing the task but ended their third place play-off aspirations.