India U-17's opening day efforts were in vain as USA clinched a dominating 3-0 win over the hosts to register three points in Group A of the FIFA U-17 World Cup opener held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi on Friday.
Star striker Josh Sargent broke the deadlock through a spot-kick at the hour mark before Chris Durkin doubled his team's lead in the second half with a deflected effort. Andrew Carleton then caught the Indian defence off guard in the 84th minute during a counter to make it 3-0 to the USA.
Going into the game, Luis Norton de Matos chose Rahul Kannoly in place of suspended Boris Thangjam at right back as India lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Jitendra Singh and Anwar Ali marshalled the central defence with Sanjeev Stalin and Rahul being the full-backs. Skipper Amarjit Singh Kiyam partnered Suresh Singh Wangjam at the heart of the pitch while Komal Thatal and Ninthoinganba Meetei took care of the flanks. Abhijit Sarkar started as the number 10 role behind lone striker Aniket Jadhav.
USA, who have played in 12 of the previous 13 editions of the U17 World Cup, started in their usual 4-3-3, with Josh Sargent, Tim Weah and Ayo Akinola lining up as the front three.
Sargent, who at the age of 17, had finished as the second highest scorer in the U20 World Cup earlier this year, had the first chance of the game when he found space inside India's penalty box in the fifth minute. However, Dheeraj Singh showed commendable alacrity to come off his line and block the shot.
From the word go, the travellers had enjoyed lion's share of possession and grew into the game with time. On one such occasion, Tim Weah tried to maraud down the left wing into the box on the 20th minute, but Rahul pulled off a copybook sliding tackle inside the box to clear the ball.
India first made a foray into the opponent territory in the 24th minute, when Aniket - anonymous till now - earned a corner after holding the ball on the right. Nothing came out of it though.
The deadlock was finally broken at the other end on the half-hour mark. Sargent tricked Jitendra and made his way into the box, and the Indian defender tucked him from the back. Sargent made the most of it and the referee pointed to the spot. The American skipper sent Dheeraj the wrong way to put his team ahead.
The remaining part of the first half was similar, but the away side couldn't create any clear-cut chances. While India struggled to piece together three-four passes while going forward, they created a beautiful move at the fag end of the half.
Stalin made a good run forward to feed Komal, who then played the ball to Abhijit. The attacker fed Stalin again on the left flank, whose good cross to Aniket was headed out.
India's valiance and USA's dominance highlighted the first 45 minutes as the teams went down the tunnel with a 0-1 scoreline.
The first chance of the second half went to Sargent again, but Dheeraj made himself big by diving to his right and came up with a great save.
But the travellers doubled the lead in the 51st minute. A corner from the right was not cleared well by the Indian defence and Durkin pounced on the loose ball to send the ball past a hapless Dheeraj.
At the other end, Komal had a golden chance to halve the deficit when Durkin misjudged a long pass by Suresh. Komal, who had to beat the onrushing goalkeeper, lobbed it over the bar.
India saw more of the ball in the second half, but failed to make many inroads even though that made the game balanced.
India got another chance to open their account in the 82nd minute when Anwar Ali got some space near the second post to shoot home Komal's corner-kick. However, his effort hit the woodwork and the Americans launched a quick counter, carving the Indian defence open. Dheeraj was not able to stop Carleton this time as the Atlanta United FC forward dribbled past him to make it 3-0.