India put up a spirited performance to eke out a 1-1 draw against Tajikistan in the opening match of the 2013 AFC U-16 Qualifiers at the Ali Sabah Al-Salem Stadium in Kuwait City on Saturday.
Prosenjit Chakraborty converted from the spot in the 56th minute after Saidov Karomatullo had put Tajikistan in the lead in the 36th minute.
The Indian colts, represented by All India Football Federation’s RegionalAcademy boys, took some time to settle down. But once they got into a groove they dominated, penetrated and forced Tajikistan to play second fiddle.
Despite playing their first international, they were not overawed by the occasion.
Down by a first-half goal the boys came back strongly.
Post the Tajikistan goal which was pushed in by Saidov off a melee following a corner, it was all India in the remaining part of the first half and the first 25 minutes of the second. But Tajikistan managed to hold on. Add to that rival Goalkeeper Khayriev Behruz’s reflexes, India were forced to split points.
The turnaround started from the 37th minute. India’s sudden burst unsettled the sturdy Tajik boys, who till the 36th minute looked a bit more in control than the Indians.
In the 44th minute, Anirudh Thapa’s touch off a Jerry Lalrinzuala free-kick hit the post and went wide. A few more opporunities followed but India just couldn’t find the net.
In the second half India were just as menacing. They kept up the pressure and almost equalised in the 47th minute but this time, a Dependra Negi header off a Jerry Lalrinzuala corner was again denied by an alert Khayriev.
The equalizer seemed inevitable and it eventually came in the 56th minute. Nijwm sidestepped Azimov Abubark only to be brought down by the latter inside the box. Prosenjit Chakraborty gleefully converted from the spot.
In the 81st minute, Tajikistan had another close shave when Anirudh’s shot was saved at the right moment by rival captain Safarov Alisher inside the box.
India's head coach Goutam Ghosh maintained, “Our boys can play better.”
“We played very well in the second half and created a lot of opportunities from which we could score. But this was our first match and we will try to rectify on our mistakes,” he stated.
Team India: Dheeraj Singh (Goalkeeper), Jayananda Moirangthem, Jerry Lalrinzuala (Captain), Prosenjit Chakraborty (Amey Ranawade – 87th), Kharlukhi Kyntiewshaphrang, Anirudh Thapa, Bedashwor Laishram, Deependra Negi (Bodo Baoringdao – 73rd), Amit Tudu, Kapil Hoble (Krishna Pandit – 46th), Muchahary Nijwm.
Image: India's Anirudh Thapa is brought down by Tajikistan's Muhammad Hasan in the AFC U-16 Qualifiers on Saturday