Abu Dhabi: India go down against the hosts UAE in the AFC Asia Cup at the Zayed Sports City, here on Thursday. Stephen Constantine’s side had their moments and very unfortunate not to take a point out of this game. India now have work to do in the final game. They need at least a point to stay alive. Thursday’s performance will give them plenty of encouragement though.
After the hysteria of the Thailand, India served a cold, harsh lesson here. India remain second in the group A though. Host garnered three points with goals off the boots of Ali Ahmed Mabkhout and Khaflan Mubarak. India should’ve converted their chances. Three golden ones, but two were saved by the UAE goalkeeper Bilal, and Chhetri missed one. Mubarak’s finish, though, was outstanding. The United Arab Emirates went top of Group A at the Asian Cup with this valuable win.
Khalfan Mubarak provided the opener in the 41st minute and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout made the points safe, the striker latching onto Ali Hassan Salmin’s direct pass and coolly confirming a result that puts the host nation in pole position to advance. The scoreline was harsh on India, who twice hit the crossbar after the restart and enjoyed the best of proceedings for long periods. Sunil Chhetri was the two-goal star of India’s weekend victory and would have made it three in two matches midway through the first half had he not headed straight at Khalid Eisa Bilal from Anirudh Thapa’s cross.
UAE eventually settled into the contest and broke the deadlock four minutes before the break, attacking midfielder Mubarak punishing some indecisive defending by squeezing a shot past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from a narrow angle.
Loose marking at the other end afforded Chhetri a chance to quickly respond, but the 34-year-old guided a tame finish beyond the far post after getting in behind the UAE defence. India continued to look the more dangerous side after the interval and went within inches of drawing level when Udanta Singh crashed a shot against the underside of the crossbar in the 55th minute.