The Indian Under-23 failed to make it to the league stage for the Olympic Qualifiers after losing to Qatar-Under 23 despite an improved showing in the 2nd leg in Pune.
The Indians once again have failed to Qualify for the Olympics and once again failed to beat the Qatar side. Despite an improved performance by the Indians in the second leg, the Indians crashed out in the Pre-Olympic stage. The Indians could only manage a 1-1 draw which was not enough to take them to the league stage as they lost with an aggregate score of 2-4.
Despite losing 1-3 in the 1st leg, Indian coach Desmond Bulpin named an unchanged side in the starting lineup. The Qatar team despite having a healthy two goal cushion, started of strongly and attacked the Indian defence early in the game. Like in the first leg, Qatar skipper Hassan Al Haidous looked quite dangerous but the Qatar team failed to find the net.
In the 20th minute, the Indians got a golden opportunity to go ahead in the 20th minute, when Qatar right wingback Murad Naji handled Jeje’s shot inside the box to give the hosts a penalty. But the golden opportunity was squandered by the Indians as Lalrindika failed to convert from the spot kick.
However, the Indian defence was rock solid as the Qatar players could not find a way to get pass the defence despite having most of the possession. Jeje looked dangerous with his intelligent game play, but Al Sheeb continued with his good form as he stood strong against the Manipuri striker. Both the teams went into the dressing room goal-less. It wasn’t a problem for the Qatar side as they had a 2 goal cushion. It was the Indians who needed to start the 2nd half strongly.
But it was the visiting team that started off strongly as Al Ansari forced a brilliant save off Kattimani. The game did not look pretty and it went worse for the Qatar team as Al Sheeb committed a horrendous blunder which gave Indians the much needed goal. The game again sparked up as the pressure started to mount up on the Qatar side. The Indians were just one goal away from qualifying for the next stage and looked quite energetic.
Soon after conceding, Qatar raised their tempo but again failed to break through the Indian defence. The defence looked strong and the Indians started pushing for another goal which would have seen them off. Jeje got a beautiful chance to put India in the driving seat as he got a wonderful through ball from Jewel, but the highest I-League scorer failed to capitalise with a very weak shoot.
The missed opportunity affected the Indians dearly. Within two minutes, it was curtains for the Indian team as Mohammed El Neel netted the equalizer by volleying home Fadhl Omar’s cross from the right wing. The Indians made several attempts to get a goal back but failed on every single occasion. The final whistle blew and India’s dream for the Olympics came down crashing.
However, it was a much improved performance by the Indians as compared to the 1st leg. The defence looked much more improved and mature and the midfield too looked quite impressive. The Indians are now out but they must take a lot of positives from the 2nd leg and try to improve in the near future.