AFC Asian Cup 2019: Unlucky India Denied a Knockout Entry by Bahrain

2 min read
Sunil Chhetri KreedOn
A dejected Sunil Chhetri after the match (Credits IFT)

Football may be one of the most beautiful games out there, but it is a heartbreaking sport as well. After all, it took just one penalty, just one small nick inside the penalty area in the injury time to shatter a nation’s dreams. Just four minutes and the Blue Tigers would have been in the Knockouts. But only if the life could be as easy and as unforgiving…

The Indian men’s football team set foot on the Sharjah Stadium with a mission – to grind out at least a draw from its last match so as to make it to the Knockout stages of the continent’s most prestigious football tournament. And they did prevail for the majority of their match against Bahrain, throwing bodies at the ball in what was a fearless display by the Blue Tigers.

And when the finish line, the Round of 16, was in touching distance, the world fell apart for Stephen Constantine’s men. Skipper Pronay Halder, who had been excellent thus far in the match, brought down Hamed Alshamsan in the box. Rashed Abdulrahman then did the needful as he slotted past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to send his team in the Knockouts.

The Indians started the match on a wrong note after centre-back Salam Ranjan Singh replaced Anas Edathodika who picked up an injury early.

The defence took time to settle as Bahrain inflicted a sustained onslaught of counter-attacks.

Bahrain regularly breached the Indian penalty area, occasionally coming up with long-distance shots. India seemed content at sitting back and absorbing pressure, foraying forward on rare counter-attacks. Even though Blue Tigers had an apt plan, excess pressure from the opponent sapped their confidence as struggled to make even simple passes.

They would fail to quickly make the transition between defence to attack, losing the ball far too often in the midfield. There was no goal threat from either India’s leading goal scorer Sunil Chhetri or Ashique Kuruniyan. For the majority of the match, they looked like a shadow of the team that had defeated Thailand by 4-1.

The Blue Tiger’s AFC Asia Cup campaign started in a promising fashion, but sadly, it ended on a low note. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of positives to take from the tournament.

Stephen Constantine Resigns as India’s Head Coach

Moments after the disappointing match, India’s head coach Stephen Constantine announced he would be ‘move on’. The Englishman, who took charge in January 2015, was set for contract renewal after the Asian Cup. However he would not be seeking an extension, he said.

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Monish Gadiya is a Pune-based sports author at KreedOn. He is a thorough tech-enthusiast and believes innovation is the answer to the problems prevalent in the society. Monish graduated from University of Pune with a degree in civil engineering before pursuing a post-graduate diploma course in creative writing and intellectual property rights. A die-hard football fan, he has represented his college at various football competitions.

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