Ahmad Fawzi struck a second-half winner as the United Arab Emirates came from behind to defeat hosts India in their Group A opener of the AFC U-16 Championship 2016 at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
Sanjeev Stalin broke the deadlock for India but Manea Aydh leveled against the run of play on 36 minutes, only for the hosts to go straight back in front through Boris Thangjam and take a one-goal advantage into the interval.
Majid Rashid made things all square on 54 minutes before substitute Fawzi secured the three points with 16 minutes to play as UAE joined Islamic Republic of Iran at the top of the standings, after the Iranians had earlier claimed a 3-2 victory over Saudi Arabia in Thursday’s other Group A encounter.
India started strongly and had their first chance of note on four minutes when Komal Thatal burst into the box and flashed his shot from a narrow angle across the face of the goal.
The home side then opened the scoring in the 12th minute shortly after UAE captain Rashid was penalised for handling Stalin’s cross from the left.
From the ensuing free-kick Stalin played a short one-two with Suresh Wangjam before curling a delightful effort from the corner of the penalty area beyond the reach of goalkeeper Salem Al Hareth and into the far left corner.
Nicolai Adam’s India continued in the ascendency and Thatal had a chance to double their tally midway through the half but directed his shot on the turn from 15 yards straight at Al Hareth.
UAE then had a golden opportunity to level 10 minutes before the interval when keeper Dheeraj Moiranghtem brought down Abdulla Al Naqbi as he attempted to round him but, after referee Hiroyuki Kimura pointed to the spot, the custodian got down low to his left to deny Rashid.
But the Emiratis equalised just seconds later when Moiranghtem failed to connect with Abed Dawod’s inswinging corner, allowing Aydh to bundle home at the back post.
Abdelmajeed Al Nemer’s side were on level terms for under a minute, though, as Aniket Jadhav raced towards the left byline before cutting the ball back for Thangjam to finish off the underside of the crossbar from 12 yards.
UAE were back on even terms once more nine minutes after the restart when Mohamed Ali squared to Rashid, who finished with aplomb from 12 yards.
The young Blue Tigers continued to create chances as Al Hareth parried Thangjam’s effort wide and Aman Chetri headed over from close in before the hour-mark.
But India’s high-energy approach appeared to take its toll as the half wore on and the Emiratis went in front for the first time on 74 minutes.
Dawod slipped through to Fawzi, who nudged the ball past the outrushing Moiranghtem before rolling into the back of net.
India tried to claw their way back into the game but by now it was the West Asians who looked the more likely to score again, and Rashid fired a free-kick just over with five minutes left to play.