It was heartbreak for the India U-15 boys as they conceded a late equaliser in the semifinal of the SAFF U-15 Championship before losing out on penalties to neighbours Bangladesh.
India had taken the early lead in the first half via a long-ranger from Harsh Patre but a 93rd-minute penalty from Ashkul Rahman saw the match go past regulation time. In the end, however, the Indian boys experienced heartbreak on penalties as Bangladesh won via a 4-2 scoreline.
It was a tight start to the first half as Bangladesh took the early initiative and launched a flurry of attacks on the Indian third. However, India were alert and looked for any opportunities to hit their neighbours on the counter.
Bangladesh constantly looked to attack down the wing and send in dangerous crosses but the Indian defence, aided by their keeper Santosh Singh, held their ground, thwarting the attacks one after the other.
India, however, took the lead on the 17th minute against the run of play, when midfielder Harsh Patre scored a scorcher of a goal from 30 yards. India switched the play from the left to the right flank before the ball rolled kindly towards Patre, who decided to go for it from an unlikely distance. The sweetly-struck shot tucked itself between the post and the crossbar to hand India an early lead, much to the delight of the youngsters.
This goal gave India some impetus as the young colts looked to get on the ball more but it was a tight battle for control of midfield.
Captain Jongte created a couple of good chances for India from set-piece situations. On one such occasion, as the first half was inching towards an end, Jongte sent in an unconventional corner towards Fredy, who was standing on the edge of the area. The latter pulled the trigger on the volley, but his shot was cleared by a Bangladeshi defender.
The finish line was very close for the Indians but Bangladesh came back late in the game as they earned a penalty in the 93rd minute. Ashkul Rahman stepped up to the spot and his shot was just out of keeper Santosh’s reach as the ball ricocheted off the upright and went into the net. This late goal sent the match into the dreaded penalty shootout.
India missed their first two penalties, which put the pressure on the colts, while Bangladesh converted all their four spot-kicks. In the end, the Blue Colts lost out 4-2 on penalties as Bangladesh move into the finals.
Coach Shuvendu Panda and his boys will now fight it out in the bronze medal match on Saturday, November 3 at 10.15am IST.