Skipper Suresh Wangjam scored from the spot to keep the hosts in the tournament…
India drew 3-3 with continental powerhouses Saudi Arabia in the AFC U-16 Championship match played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa today.
Both teams came into this one on the back of narrow 3-2 defeats to the United Arab Emirates and Iran respectively. However, the hosts were unchanged while the visitors also persisted with largely the same line-up as in their first game.
The Indians started off on the front foot taking the lead within the first five minutes with Komal Thatal coming down the left before picking out Aniket Jadhav who converted in style. Seven minutes later the same combination combined in the same fashion but this time Aniket’s shot was well blocked by a Saudi defender. India doubled their lead on 22 minutes when Boris Thangjam stormed down the left, cut in and found Aman Chetri in the box with his scuffed effort trickling in. With the visitors looking to stem the hosts’ momentum the game settled into a calmer tempo before they pulled one back on 34 minutes.Dhari Alanazi produced a perfect cross from the left and Sulaiman Al Dhuwayhi was there at the back post to head home. The game once again Sprang to life in first half injury time. First Alabdan Hamad Abdan’s free-kick was was hit onto the bar by captain Almas Naif Mousa. Shortly afterwards goalscorer Sulaiman dribbled past both Sanjeev Stalin and Boris before going down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot but Mali’s effort was well saved by Dheeraj in the Indian goal.
After repeating their mistakes from the first game NicolaI Adam’s men were lucky to go into the break still in the lead.
With both sides taking time to hit their straps the second half again witnessed a slow start. The first chance fell the way of the Saudis when Alabdan’s snapshot from the edge of the box warmed Dheeraj’s hands. Juhst pass the hour mark Thatal cut in from the left but his shot deflected off a defender and into the hands of the keeper. On 67 minutes Al Sheikh produced a low drive from just outside the box which was parried by the Indian keeper. Four minutes later substitute Al Mutairi almost levelled the score latching onto a cross from the right but he couldn’t guide his effort on target. Into the final 15 minutes and after some good build up play on by the visitors the ball came to Mali who once again shot wide of the narrow angle. With 10 minutes to go the Indian sprung a counter but Boris couldn’t keep his strike on target. Adam’s men would once again pay for not putting the game to bed as the Saudis went straight down the other end where Alanazi’s cross from a short corner found substitute Faras Tarik Brikan who tapped in to make it 2-2. He soon put the Saudis in to the lead in the 84th minute. Much like the first game the Indians seemed to run out of steam and in the second minute of injury time Mali struck the bar from all of 30 yards. There was more drama in the final minute. Dheeraj lofted a free-kick into the box from the halfway line. It was only half cleared. When the keeper to collect the collect the subsequent cross he was challenged by Lalengmawia and fouled the Indian substitute, with the referee pointing to the spot. That left captain Suresh Wangjam and he converted in the 97th minute to send the Fatorda crowd into delirium.
After spirited displayed in both games the hosts now have a point to show for their efforts, but still face an uphill task to make it to the Quarterfinals with heavyweights Iran up next. The Junior Tigers still have much to ponder on from the game, especially about the way in which they have reacted after taking the lead in successive games. However, just for the manner in which it was achieved, the result will be seen as a point gained rather than two lost.
Report by Khel Now-Content Editor Mrunal Nakashe. A sports buff, he’s also a foreign policy enthusiast and keen North Korea watcher. Mrunal loves gaming, reading, traveling and is a self-confessed Football Manager addict. You can follow him on Twitter.