There were doubts; doubts, whether the match would be played at all. Reason: Snow.
It snowed since 2am in Tehran and there were some four inches of snow in the hotel premises when everyone peeped out of their windows prior to breakfast. And when the team left for the Takhti Stadium at 1pm, the snow had grown to six inches, if not more. Everything around was white.
Some 25 kms away, there wasn’t any trace of white at the Stadium. Instead of snowflakes there were raindrops. It drizzled, and drizzled heavily all throughout. The temperature was just above one degree and even with the gloves on, it was freezing.
On the ground, the same old story cost India the match – the disease of not being able to convert chances. One hopes, it doesn’t become infectious in future. The squad which had fought gallantly against Iran and Uzbekistan, couldn’t show their character against Pakistan. But despite this defeat, one needs to admit this is a a talented unit under a sensible coach.
But the same story of the Uzbekistan match was repeated four days later on Tuesday – the failure of putting it into the net from positions where one slotting home should have become a habit by now.
In the first half, the boys found hard to adjust to the slushy ground conditions. Pakistan adjusted better and rode on a brace from Billwal-ur-Rehman to beat India 2-1. Bilawal scored his first when he headed it home in the 32nd minute, and then in the 43rd minute, he scored off a direct free-kick from outside the box.
Changing over, India pulled one back in the 55th minute when Johnnychand Singh blasted home an Anto Xavier cross from the left.
The Indians pressed hard thereafter but stayed guilty of muffing from close on three occasions – Pronoy Halder, Holicharan Narzary and Johnnychand failing to place it in with the rival goalkeeper Saqib Hanif at their mercy.
Overall, the discipline in defence and midfield which had made India stand out among all teams stayed missing in the first half and Pakistan were fast to capitalise.
India finished their campaign at the third place with three points from four matches.
(AIFF Press Release / Written by Nilanjan Datta)
AFC U19 Championship – Qualifier – Group C
India U19 1-2 Pakistan U19
Takhti Stadium, Tehran
0-1 Billwal-ur-Rehman (32′)
0-2 Billwal-ur-Rehman (43′)
1-2 Johnnychand Singh (55′)
Ravi Kumar; Akashdeep Singh, Bikramjit Singh (45′ Arijeet Singh), Sonu, Narayan Das; Johnnychand Singh, Sehnaj Singh, Pronay Halder, Anto Xavier (85′ Rajinder Kumar); Holicharan Narzary (77′ Sumit Passi), Malswamfela [C]
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