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Soccer: India lose to Bahrain in international friendly

March 24, 2022 00:05 IST
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India's Rahul Bheke scored the equaliser before Bahrain found the winner in the 88th minute

IMAGE: India's Rahul Bheke scored the equaliser before Bahrain found the winner in the 88th minute. Photograph: AIFF Media

The Indian football team fought hard before going down to higher-ranked Bahrain 1-2 in an international friendly in Manama on Wednesday.

Midfielder Mohammed Al-Hardan struck the game's opening goal -- a volley in the 38th minute at the Al Muharraq Stadium.

Al-Hardan's strike did not prove to be enough for the home side as the Indian team, seven of whose members could not reach Bahrain with the rest of the squad on Tuesday owing to visa-related issues, hit back in the 59th minute through a Rahul Bheke header.

 

Head coach Igor Stimac's move to introduce Naorem Roshan Singh at the start of the second half proved to be decisive as it was through his assist that India managed to restore parity.

However, India's joy was short-lived as Mahdi Humaidan struck the all-important goal in the 88th minute to seal the deal in favour of Bahrain.

Up against the 91st-ranked Bahrain, Stimac's side, which is currently placed at 104 in the FIFA rankings, found the going tough from the word go and, had it not been for a fine save by skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the Indians would have trailed by a bigger margin at half time.

Bahrain were awarded a penalty as early as the sixth minute of the game after a hand ball by Indian defensive mainstay Sandesh Jhingan but goalkeeper Gurpreet, diving to his left, led by example to deny the hosts an early lead with a brilliant save.

Undeterred, Bahrain pressed hard and pushed India on the back foot with their attacking game, even as Mohamed Marhoon struck the woodwork after getting the ball in the box. Mahdi hit the ball on the bounce but his attempt went wide.

Meanwhile, in one of their better chances, India's Danish Farooq received Anwar Ali's lofted ball from the right but his header was not on target.

Gurpreet showed good anticipation at the post but he could not stop Al-Hardan's volley from finding the back of the net.

Stimac made a change to the XI at the start of second half, bringing in Naorem Roshan Singh on place of Liston Colaco, and the move soon paid dividends as the former played a role in India's much-needed equaliser against the run of play.

Having got the better of the off-side trap, Bheke headed in the ball into the back of the net after Roshan Singh put in a cross from the right.

Bahrain tried to control the game by keeping possession but India stood firm, their defense frustrating the opponents no end.

However, Bahrain had the last laugh thanks to Mahdi's winner.

India are playing the friendly as part of their preparations for the Asian Cup Qualifiers in June.

India have never defeated Bahrain. In the six last fixtures between them, India's best result has been the 0-0 draw in 1982.

England players to use platform at Qatar World Cup to highlight issues

England's players will aim to use their platform to shine a light on issues surrounding this year's World Cup in Qatar, captain Harry Kane said on Wednesday.

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar while a report by Amnesty International found that thousands of migrant workers in the country were being exploited, which Qatar has denied.

England, who have already qualified for the World Cup, will play friendlies against Switzerland and Ivory Coast this month and Kane said the squad met on Tuesday to discuss the issues ahead of the tournament that begins in November.

"We've never shied away from important issues, and we've always had our opinions and tried to show unity in anything we've done. That's what will happen now over this camp and the next camp to try to help in any way we can," Kane told reporters.

"As players, we didn't choose where this World Cup was going to be. But what it has done is it has shone a light on important issues which might not have come to light if the World Cup wasn't there.

"We have to try to help as much as possible to understand the issues and the situations. We're no experts in that field at the moment in terms of what we know but as always we try to... use our platform to help in any way we can."

Human Rights Watch has said that Qatari laws discriminate against women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, while a 48-page report by Amnesty said that practices such as withholding migrant workers' salaries and charging them to change jobs were still rife.

The government of Qatar has said in the past that its labour system is a work in progress but has denied the accusations in the Amnesty report.

England manager Gareth Southgate said earlier this week he was unhappy some fans will not feel able to travel to Qatar for the World Cup due to concerns over human rights issues.

Kane added that he and his team mates would discuss the issues in greater depth and suggested he could speak to other national team captains to take a unified stance.

"As a nation we want our fans to enjoy the tournament as much as we hopefully enjoy the tournament. And we want them to feel safe and free to watch the games how they please and act how they want to act," Kane said.

"There's still a lot of progress to be made. But hopefully all of us ... can try to make change with the platforms that we have."

England host Switzerland on March 26 before playing Ivory Coast three days later.

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