India lost to hosts UAE in their second International Friendly in Dubai, UAE, as striker Ali Mabkhout netted a hattrick at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on Monday (March 29, 2021).
Staying true to his words, India head coach Igor Stimac gave game-time to many new faces in the friendly, making as many as eight changes to the Blue Tigers starting XI, bringing in Gurpreet Singh (captain for the day), Adil Khan, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Lalengmawia Ralte, Pritam Kotal, Liston Colaco and Mashoor Shereef and giving them the opportunity to stake a claim for a spot ahead of the upcoming matches in June.
Amongst those that retained their places in the XI from the 1-1 draw against Oman were Akash Mishra, Manvir Singh, and Suresh Wangjam — with the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Rowllin Borges, Bipin Singh, etc. not in action.
The hosts, ranked 74 on the FIFA Rankings, managed to get an early lead when Ali Mabkhout latched onto a through ball from Fabio De Lima and chipped it over the keeper.
India went looking for the equaliser after the goal and soon had a decent opportunity when debutant Liston Colaco — the 11th debutant for the Blue Tigers in these two friendly games — earned a free-kick from a dangerous position. Anirudh Thapa attempted a move from the training ground, as he played Pritam Kotal through down the right flank but the danger was averted by the UAE defence.
On the half-hour mark, Fabio De Lima cut in from the right and took a shot, that was adjudged to have been blocked by Adil Khan’s hand by the referee. Mabkhout again stepped up and slotted it home from the penalty spot on the 32nd-minute mark.
The two teams headed into the dressing rooms at half time, with UAE leading by two goals to nil.
Blue Tigers boss Igor Stimac made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Yasir Mohammad in place of Anirudh Thapa, while Halicharan Narzary replaced Chhangte.
Mabkhout completed his hat-trick on the hour mark, as he controlled the ball inside the box, and slotted it home. Four minutes later, Khalil Ibrahim’s first-time shot found the back of the Indian net, to make it four.
Raynier Fernandes and Ishan Pandita came on as substitutes in the 58th minute in place of Liston Colaco and Lalengmawia. In the 72nd minute, Hitesh Sharma replaced Suresh Wangjam in midfield. Ashique Kuruniyan was brought on for Akash Mishra with 10 minutes to go as well.
Fabio Lima added a fifth, before setting up substitute Sebastian Tagliabue towards the end, who scored his team’s sixth goal as the hosts won the match.
India XI: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu [C]; Akash Mishra (80′ Ashique Kuruniyan), Adil Khan, Mashoor Shereef, Pritam Kotal; Anirudh Thapa (46′ Mohammed Yasir), Suresh Wangjam (72′ Hitesh Sharma), Lalengmawia Ralte (58′ Raynier Fernandes); Lallianzuala Chhangte (46′ Halicharan Narzary), Liston Colaco (58′ Ishan Pandita), Manvir Singh