India managed a 1-1 draw against Syria in their final group game of the Intercontinental Cup 2019 on Tuesday at the TransStadia Arena, Ahmedabad.
Narender Gahlot gave India the lead in the 52nd minute but Syrian captain Firas AlKhatib equalised from the penalty spot in the 78th minute.
Igor Stimac once again made eight changes in the Indian starting XI in their final game of the tournament against Syria. Only Sunil Chhetri, Amarjit Singh and Pritam Kotal were retained from the last game.
Syria made four changes in their must-win clash. Skipper Firas AlKhatib, Khaled Kourdoughli, Fares Arnout returned to the starting lineup. Right-back Youssef Al Hamwi started for the first time in the competition.
The hosts got their best chance of the first half to draw first blood in the sixth minute when Udanta dodged a Syrian defender and sent a low cross into the box. Unfortunately, both Sahal Abdul Samad and Lallianzuala Chhangte failed to tap the ball in from handshaking distance.
Syria got three chances to score within the first thirty minutes of the match and were denied by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu on two out of three occasions.
The Indian defenders did a commendable job compared to their horrific displays in the last two matches. While Narender looked more compact than the first game, Rahul Bheke did well to lead the backline. The central midfield duo of Amarjit Singh and Anirudh Thapa fought relentlessly to keep the Syrian attackers at bay.
India were off to a flying start in the second half of the match as young defender Narender Gahlot headed in the opening goal of the match in the 52nd minute from Anirudh Thapa’s curling corner and became the second-youngest goal scorer for India after Jerry Zirsanga.
A desperate looking Syrian side launched a series of attacks after conceding the goal but the hosts stood firm at the back.
Stimac introduced Jerry Lalrinzuala in the 74th minute in place of Mandar Rao Dessai at the left-back position. The Chennaiyin defender’s arrival proved to be a disaster as he brought down Ahmad Alahmad inside the box. Skipper Alkhatib calmly found the back of the net from 12 yards.
The Syrians tried their best to score one more in the final 10 minutes of the game but the hosts defended in numbers to prevent late drama.
With today's result, pre-tournament favourites Syria bowed out of the competition after registering just four points from three games. DPR Korea will face Tajikistan in the final on July 19.