Football: India hold UAE 2-2 but still crash out of World Cup race

first_imgSHort passing and heavy rain don’t go hand in hand, India learnt that the hard way. The hosts managed only a 2-2 draw in the second leg of their World Cup qualifier against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Ambedkar Stadium in the Capital on Thursday.After a 0-3 loss in Al Ain on Saturday, India’s road to the 2014 World Cup ended with a 2-5 aggregate defeat.Mohamed Al Shehhi scored in the 39th minute and Ali Al Wehaibi in the 70th to dash any hopes India had of making a match out of the encounter in front of a vociferous crowd. Although India did score through Jeje Lalpekhlua in the 74th minute and Gouramangi Singh in the 91st, it was definitely too little too late.Overturning a three-goal deficit is no mean task and with the hosts still adopting a passing game under new coach Armando Colaco, the writing was on the wall even before the match started -thanks to the torrential downpour that turned the pitch at the Ambedkar Stadium into a pool.For once, former coach Bob Houghton was definitely missed as the setting was the same when India beat Tajikistan 4-1 in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup at the very ground to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup.The only difference was that under the Englishman, India relied on long passes and played more of an aerial game.Trying to adapt to the passing game takes time and when the team has to suddenly switch and adapt to another tactic -long passing -on match-day, it isn’t easy and although the Ambedkar is considered a happy hunting ground for the Indian team, their passing looked all at sea on the slushy turf.advertisementThe match began with India trying to go all-out for goals and the UAE players soaking in the pressure and plotting their own counter-attacks.So while the Indian players huffed and puffed trying to enter the rival half, the UAE midfielders and defenders ensured that the Indian inroads were foiled before they threatened threatened their citadel.The ground conditions did not help India’s momentum either. India had their first attempt at goal in the eighth minute with Sunil Chhetri getting into the box from the left flank to find an unmarked Jeje Lalpekhlua. But the defenders converged on the youngster and all he could do was pass it on to Steven Dias, who had moved in from the right.But Dias failed to beat UAE goalie Ali Khaseif. Chhetri was at it again in the 25th minute when he aimed at goal only for Khaseif to fist the shot over the bar.The visitors went ahead when moving in from the left, Ahmed Khalil foxed defender Samir Naik to feed Shehhi with a perfect pass from the left wing. The latter headed in -much to the dismay of goalkeeper Karanjit Singh and the Ambedkar crowd.UAE’s Mohamme Al Shehhi(left) celebrates with All Al Wehalbl after scoring a goalThe second half saw UAE attacking from all quarters and despite the Indian defence putting up a composed show, the visitors scored with Wehaibi moving in from the left to wrongfoot the Indian defence and hit the back of the net.India looked to up the ante further and the move to replace Dias with Lalrindika Ralte paid dividends as he moved in beautifully from the right to find Jeje waiting for the cross inside the box.Jeje completed the formalities by heading in.India kept looking for the equaliser and their efforts bore fruit when Gouramangi jumped on to a loose ball inside the box and hit the back of the net -ensuring India did not end on the losing side.The crowd erupted as if the match had been won, but it was only a draw and the end of the road for India as far as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is concerned.”Today we played a better game. Conditions were difficult but it is not easy for a team to come from 0- 2 down to draw 2-2. Heavy rains made it difficult to pass the ball around but we played a better passing game,” said India coach Colaco after the match.last_img

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