U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers Last minute goal helps China overcome courageous India 2 1

Dalian (China), Sep 9 : Despite a courageous display, India fell short in the crucial league match against China in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers, succumbing to a 96th-minute goal by Naibijiang Mohemati here on Saturday. In a game of fine margins, India had fought back from a goal deficit due to an own goal by Hu Hetao as they lost 1-2 to the hosts at Dalian Suoyuwan Stadium on Saturday. The India U-23 team learned the hard way that football is a game of fine margins, in their Group G match against hosts China as they fell short in the match. Clifford Miranda's determined Indian U23 team put up a valiant effort but that didn???t prove to be enough as they found themselves on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline due to a few momentary lapses at the back. After a neck-to-neck battle for more than an hour, in which the Indians did a commendable job, the deadlock was broken in the 68th minute when Vibin Mohanan conceded a penalty off a sliding tackle, easily converted by China???s captain Tao Qianglong. However, India managed to level the score in the 92nd minute thanks to an own goal by China. Narender Gehlot took a smart low drive from a melee and the ball hit China's Hu Hetao before rolling into the net. Just when it seemed the match was heading for a draw, China???s Naibijiang Mohemaiti struck the winning goal in the 96th minute, leaving India a dejected lot. This defeat was particularly significant after India???s opening match was cancelled due to The Maldives??? last-minute withdrawal from the tournament. As a result, Group G featured only three teams, India, UAE, and hosts China PR. With this loss, India now face a tough challenge to qualify for the group. China's victory propelled them to the top of the group with four points, while India are yet to earn a point. To have any hope of qualifying, India must secure a substantial win against the UAE on September 12 and rely on favourable results in other matches. In the context of the AFC U23 Asian Cup, only the group winners and the four best second-placed teams overall will advance to the Finals. Hosts Qatar are automatically qualified. The Finals are scheduled to be held from April 15 to May 3, 2024. The match saw India taking the initiative with Rohit Danu???s early attempt on goal, which was comfortably saved by China???s goalkeeper, Jian Tao. China faced a setback when midfielder Mutalifu Yimingkari had to be substituted in the ninth minute due to injury. Xie Wenneng replaced him and later played a pivotal role in earning the decisive penalty for China. India's final group match will be against the UAE on Tuesday, September 12. /IANS


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