India kicked off their U17 Asian Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw against Vietnam, as they staged a second-half comeback to level the score after falling behind.
Both teams found it difficult to create good scoring opportunities in the final third, resulting in the match being ultimately determined by two brilliant individual goals. Facing tougher opponents in Uzbekistan and Japan in their upcoming matches, Bibiano Fernandes had undoubtedly set high hopes for his team to secure a victory in today’s game. However, with only one point gained from the draw, India now finds themselves on a precarious edge as they approach their challenging fixtures against Japan and Uzbekistan.
India’s XI – Sahil Poonia (GK), Ricky Meetei, Surajkumar Ngangbam, Malemngamba Singh Thokchom, Pramveer Singh, Gurnaj Singh, Korou Singh, Lalpekhlua, Danny Meitei, Akash Tirkey, Vanlalpeka Guite.
Vietnam’s XI – Nguyen Bao Ngoc, Nguyen Luong Tuan Khai, Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Dang Thanh Binh, Phan Van Thanh, Le Dinh Long Vu, Nguyen Cong Phuong, Vi Dinh Thuong, Pham Nguyen Quoc Trung, Le Huynh Trieu, Nguyen Thien Phu.
The clash between Bibiano Fernades and Hoang Tuan Anh’s boys delivered a first half filled with frenetic energy. In the opening minutes, the midfield became a battleground, with both sides fiercely contesting possession. The first ten minutes saw no clear chances, but it was India who had more possesion of the ball. Korou provided a constant threat from the right flank, while Lalpekhlua and Danny operated on the left, keeping the Vietnam defense on their toes.
Despite India’s dominance in possession, Vietnam’s resilient defenders thwarted their attempts to penetrate the final third. Gurnaj, often acting as the lone pivot in the midfield, impressed with his control and distribution, dictating play for the Indian side in the midfield. However, the Indian team struggled with their final passes, and Vietnam’s physically strong defenders consistently disrupted their attacks. Notably, Vietnam had not conceded a single goal in their U17 Asian Cup qualifiers, a testament to their defensive prowess.
In the 22nd minute, India earned their first corner of the game. Danny’s delivery into the box held promise, with Pramveer, Suraj, and Korou eagerly waiting to capitalize. Unfortunately, the curling corner kick was snatched by Nguyen Bao Ngoc, denying India a breakthrough.
Throughout the first half, India created chances but faltered in holding onto the ball in the final third, making incorrect decisions more often than not. Korou’s impressive passing from the right flank added a spark to India’s attack, but Vietnam’s disciplined defense remained resolute. Malemngamba, in possession of the ball, succumbed to pressure from the Vietnamese players, leading to a foul and a free-kick close to the box. Pramveer bravely cleared the ensuing delivery into the box, denying Vietnam a goal-scoring opportunity. Despite shouts for a handball, the referee dismissed the claims, allowing play to continue.
Vietnam began to find their rhythm around the half-hour mark, calming their nerves and maintaining longer spells of possession. With India’s pressing intensity waning, Vietnam’s defense grew more composed as the minutes passed, thwarting any attempts from the Indian side. Danny attempted to chip the ball into the goal in a desperate effort to open the scoring, but the effort lacked power, allowing Vietnam’s goalkeeper to secure an easy save.
Struggling to generate cohesive attacks, Vietnam often resorted to long balls that either found the Indian defenders or veered out of play. However, late in the first half, Vietnam’s Khahn delivered a tantalizing cross to Thien Phu, who unleashed an acrobatic effort that sailed wide of the goal, leaving the Indian side breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Soon after, India earned their second corner of the game, but the delivery fell short, granting possession back to Vietnam. As halftime loomed, Vietnam mounted a swift counterattack from India’s corner kick. Le Dinh Long Vu found himself in a 1v2 situation against Ricky and Pramveer, but he exhibited brilliance with a powerful left-footed strike that eluded India’s goalkeeper Sahil, giving Vietnam a stunning goal just before the break. The goal now forced Bibiano Fernandes to reassess his halftime plans as Honag Tuan Anh’s side found themselves in the lead.
Vietnam nearly doubled their lead as their Le Huynh Treiu’s curling corner grazed the far post, narrowly missing the back of the net. Despite early promise, India’s inability to convert opportunities in the final third, coupled with Long Vu’s moment of brilliance, left them trailing as they retreated back to the dressing room with a goal deficit.
Both teams managed a single shot on target, but Vietnam maintained the upper hand in possession, regaining their composure after the initial half-hour struggle. The second half promised an interesting 45 minutes as India aimed to mount a comeback while Vietnam sought to hold on to their lead.
India began the second half with a substitution, as Gangte replaced the quiet Akash, in hopes of injecting more attacking firepower to their game. The Indian side quickly found their first opportunity to score when Ricky delivered a well-placed cross to Lalpekhlua, but he failed to nod it into the back of the net.
Pramveer earned India’s second yellow card of the game, conceding a free-kick not far away from the box that posed a potential danger. However, Sahil displayed his prowess, successfully preventing the delivery from finding the back of the net. Gangte had a chance to break the deadlock with a powerful volley from a set-piece, but Vietnam’s goalkeeper managed to make a comfortable save.
India continued to create chances in their pursuit of an equalizer. Malemngamba found himself unmarked on the left side but narrowly missed the target with his shot, failing to trouble the goalkeeper. Just like the first-half, despite enjoying more possession, India struggled to break through Vietnam’s defense. Gangte had a golden opportunity to open the scoring when Guite’s perfect through ball past the Vietnam defence found him, but his shot from a tight angle hit the goalkeeper, and he failed to capitalize on the rebound.
Bibiano Fernandes introduced Gogocha, substituting Lalpekhlua, as India grew increasingly desperate to find the equalizer. Their persistence paid off soon after as Malemngamba unleashed a magnificent left-footed shot from outside Vietnam’s box. Bao Ngoc, Vietnam’s goalkeeper, misjudged the trajectory, and the ball found the top corner at the far post, resulting in a brilliant goal. With twenty minutes remaining, India had successfully brought themselves back into the game, injecting new life into the contest.
India almost earned a penalty shortly after the equalizer when Gangte was brought down inside the box, but the linesman correctly deemed him offside. Vietnam, previously silent in attack, began to string together their own moves as they aimed to regain the lead. Sahil’s timely intervention saw him punch away a dangerous cross from Quoc Khanh, and the Indian defenders swiftly closed down any potential threats from the rebound.
Gangte’s introduction failed to produce the desired impact on India’s attacks, as they continued to struggle with their final-third passes. Even their equalizer had come from a long-range effort, highlighting the challenge they faced in breaching Vietnam’s defence. With five minutes remaining, Bibiano made a third change, substituting Danny for Omang, as India fought for a late winner.
Vietnam mounted a flurry of chances inside India’s box as the clock approached the 90-minute mark, but the Indian defense stood resolute to prevent conceding. With five additional minutes added to the clock, both teams resorted to crosses into each other’s boxes in a bid to secure the winning goal. Sahil experienced a moment of anxiety as he nearly fumbled a simple grab, but none of the Vietnamese attackers could capitalize on the opportunity. India had a golden chance to snatch a winning goal in added-time, but their No.16 failed to find the target from a volley, and the Vietnam defenders cleared the ensuing danger.
As the final whistle blew, the match came to a close in a 1-1 stalemate, leaving the Indian supporters with a tinge of disappointment. The defensive showcase from both sides was remarkable, as the only goals of the encounter materialized from moments of brilliance by individual players. However, India’s lackluster attacking display and tactical shortcomings in the first half may come back to haunt them if they fail to advance past the group stages due to this draw. Coach Bibiano Fernandes will need to inspire significant improvements in his team if they hope to have a chance against opponents like Uzbekistan and Japan.
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