India U-23 were lucky that Dheeraj Singh had a really good day in between the sticks against Uzbekistan on Friday in their first AFC U-23 Championship qualifier. They lost 0-3 to the hosts but it could have been a whole lot worse.
After Pakistan withdrew from the tournament, the young Blues were left with two obstacles in Group F - Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The most glaring weakness in the team seems to be in the attacking third. Apart from Rahul KP who impressed with his menacing runs down the flanks early on in the game, nobody really stood up. Daniel Lalhlimpuia had a forgettable outing as the lone striker and Lallianzuala Chhangte struggled to impress.
Sahal Abdul Samad and Anirudh Thapa had a difficult time on the ball against a superior midfield as Uzbekistan were dominant right from the off to the very end. India's chances,
The Blues conceded their first goal through a penalty at arguably the worst time to give away a goal - the stroke of half-time. Gaurav Bora's poor challenge on Alijanov Ilkhamjon allowed skipper Islomjon Kobilov to slot home from 12 yards.
After the break, although India looked like they were getting a grip of the game, Uzbekistan
Bobir Abdixolikov found it really easy to sneak into an unmarked area inside the box and find the net to double his team's lead. India pressed further forward and while their forwards passed the ball among themselves at one end, Bobir Abdixolikov passed it into the net at the other after being gifted possession by Sarthak Golui.
Dheeraj made another one-on-one save before the end of the game, keeping the scoreline down to 0-3. Anwar Ali was another guy who did not look out of his depth. However, collectively India did not fire.
With Tajikistan up next in a day's time, India just