India finished its AFC Asian Cup 2023 campaign on a forgettable note with a 0-1 loss to Syria in its third and final group stage match at the Al Bayt Stadium on Tuesday.
Syria’s ‘super sub’ Omar Khrbin scored the winner for Hector Cuper’s side as the Blue Tigers bowed out of the competition with three consecutive losses and no points to their name.
India had started the game looking for an early break, with Mahesh Singh Naorem coming close to scoring in the fourth minute, only to see it go wide after a deflection.
Syria, on the other hand, was seen practising plenty of long and diagonal balls in its final warm-up which was reflected in its play, using a 4-4-2 shape.
It bombarded India with shots continuously but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s astute presence ensured the match remained a level-playing field for the most part of the game.
Hector Cuper’s side got its first chance from a corner in the seventh minute. Pablo Sabbag beat Manvir Singh to Jalil Elias’ corner but his header was pushed away by the Bengaluru FC goalkeeper.
In the 19th minute, Lalengmawia Ralte lost the ball to a marauding Ibrahim Hesar, who then shot from a distance, forcing another save by Gurpreet.
India had two more chances to score and both had captain Sunil Chhetri taking them. While the first – a header from a floating cross by Mahesh – was steered wide of goal, the second, the last shot of the first half, flew off-target.
Minutes into the second half, India lost the heart of its defence as Sandesh Jhingan limped off the field to be replaced by Nikhil Poojary.
Cuper looked to change his strategy after the restart. Syria had three shots on target in the first half and two of them were from outside the box. In the second half, it started playing more ground passes.
And with Jhingan missing in the back-line, the breakthrough eventually arrived in the 76th minute.
Lalengmawia lost the ball to Elias in the midfield, who marched up the pitch and passed to Alaa Aldin Yasin Dali, who then got the ball to Khrbin. Khrbin played a one-two with Hesar and then beat Rahul Bheke to find the bottom-left corner.
Group B: Syria 1 (Khrbin 76) bt India 0, Australia 1 (Boyle 45+1-pen) drew with Uzbekistan (Turgunbaev 78).
Source website: www.thehindu.com