Unlike the previous fixture, Stephen Constantine’s tactical tweaks didn’t work out in the second half.
India suffered a humbling 0-2 loss at the hands of the United Arab Emirates in their second group game of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. Despite dominating proceedings in the first half and having several gilt-edged opportunities, a lapse in concentration in defence allowed Khalfan Mubarak to hand the home side the lead in the 42nd minute. A similar pattern followed in the second half and right at the end UAE’s talisman Ali Mabkhout scored to seal all three points for the hosts.
Watch: India 0-2 UAE, Goals and Highlights
Here are the talking points from the game:
5. Is the Indian defence as good as it looks on paper?
The Kerala Blasters defender couldn’t form a proper understanding with Anas
Sandesh Jhinghan and Anas Edathodika maybe two of the best center-backs that India have produced in recent times, but it is no secret that they have not been in great form this season for their Indian Super League side. That lack of form was exposed by a smart UAE side who took to playing long balls and making runs in between the two in order to find room for themselves.
Both the goals that the Blue Tigers conceded were down to poor communication and their inability to read the game at the correct juncture. It remains to be seen if Stephen Constantine sticks with these two for the massive game against Bahrain on the 14th or brings in the out-of-favour Salam Ranjan Singh to get better results.
4. Can India make it past the group stages in the AFC Asian Cup now?
A win against the UAE would have guaranteed India a spot in the next round, but there is still a good chance for the Blue Tigers to go through provided they perform really well against Bahrain. All four sides in the group, including Thailand, are currently in contention to qualify for the knockout rounds, so it will all boil down to the final matchday on 14th January.
3. Did Constantine select the right team and make the right substitutions?
Other than a curling free-kick, Borges didn’t have any impact after coming on for Thapa
Right from the go, India harried and hassled the UAE midfield and ensured they would not spend much time on the ball. In possession, they repeatedly played the long ball to get behind the home side’s defence and tried to put in crosses into the box. It seemed odd to see Balwant Singh not starting with such a strategy in place, for he would have made the perfect target man to execute the plan.
Not only did manager Stephen Constantine not bring Singh on, but he benched the pacy and impressive Udanta Singh in the second half in favour of the slower Jackichand Singh. Questions must be raised as to why the English manager did not bring on better alternatives to get behind the UAE defence and help India’s cause.
2. Did bad finishing and poor luck cost India the game?
Despite having only 34% possession, India created as many chances (7) and had as many shots (9) as the UAE. However, they still lost the game thanks to a string of missed chances from the likes of Sunil Chhetri, Ashique Kuruniyan and Sandesh Jhinghan. The crossbar came to the UAE’s rescue twice as well, with both Udanta and Jhinghan’s efforts ricocheting off the underside of the frame of the goal.
India will have to be much more efficient in front of goal against Bahrain if they are to make a case for themselves to go into the knockout rounds.
1. Can we expect Constantine to make some changes for the final group game?
There is no question that the final game against Bahrain has now taken on incredible relevance with regards to India making it to the next round. Under such circumstances, Constantine might be forced to make a few changes that should include dropping Kuruniyan to the bench, starting both Udanta and Jeje Lalpekhlua or Balwant upfront and preferably putting Subhasish Bose in central defence in place of Anas and playing Narayan Das as a full-back.
The Blue Tigers need to play it smart against Bahrain, so the tactical and personnel approach will be key.