Men’s Football: India lose 0-2 to Saudi Arabia, crash out of Asian games

A formidable Saudi Arabia did not bring their ‘A’ game to the fore but were strong enough to hold off a brave challenge from India, winning their pre-quarterfinal match 2-0 in the men’s football competition in Hangzhou on Thursday. Saudi Arabia’s supremacy was in no doubt as striker Mohammed Khalil Marran’s opportunistic twin strikes in the 51st and 57th minutes ended Sunil Chhetri-led India’s campaign at the continental event. However, Igor Stimac’s players can hold their heads high with the kind of performances they are putting up despite so much uncertainty and with the AIFF fielding a second string side due to the stubborn attitude of the Indian Super League (ISL) organizers who refused to release great players.

A win against Saudi Arabia would have been a miracle, but considering this bunch of players haven’t even been in a camp together, it was a commendable effort from them to keep the would-be gold medal contenders in a goalless stalemate for the first 45 minutes .

The defense of Sandesh Jhingan held form but it was the Saudis’ better stamina, stronger legs and superior skills that prevailed in the end.

Just like it happened during the China match, the wheels came off just after the 50th minute.

The only difference from that game was that the players were well rested and therefore the floodgates did not open after the winners scored a ball.

In the 51st minute, Mohammed Al Abu Shamat sent in a perfect cross from the right and Khalil outwitted his marker Jhingan to powerfully nod it home to give his side the lead.

The goal created a bit of panic in the Indian ranks and the second goal was completed with five touches.

After grabbing the ball in the Indian defensive third, a defense that split through freed the former Al Nassr forward on the right side of the penalty area.

The fourth touch was an outside dodge that beat goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh’s outstretched hands and the fifth touch was a cool poke of the ball into the net.

To be fair to the Indian team, the defense did not operate from too deep and although they did not have numerical advantages in the opposition’s attacking third, Saudi Arabia cannot claim that they had too many scoring chances.

One goal they missed was a Musab Al-Juwayr’s snap right-footer that beat Dheeraj and dived only to hit the crossbar.

This happened in the 22nd minute of the first half. The second close chance was when Zakaria Hawsawi had a clear look at goal from close range, but Jhingan aligned his body with perfect anticipation to clear the danger.(Asian Games 2023 medals|Asian Games 2023 full schedule)

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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