Outskilled, outpaced and certainly outspent, India were no match for Saudi Arabia in their 2023 Asian Games men's football round of 16 match in Hangzhou, China on Thursday. But the Blue Tigers, thanks to their disciplined defensive work, managed to keep the Blue Falcons quiet in the first half at Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium. Then, everything went downhill soon after the restart. Khalil Marran struck twice in six minutes, first a clean header from a corner in the 51' and the second, from a precise through ball, gave India a serious reality check. Despite two-down, Indian bravehearts continued to give their best. Yet, it was not enough for Sunil Chhetri & Co. Catch highlights of the IND vs KSA football match. (Match Report | Full Coverage | Medal Tally | Football News)
6:56 pm: Recap
Once a force to reckon with in Asian football, India are now a pale shadow of their glorious past. The two-time Asian Games gold medalists were seeking redemption... seeking to end a more than five-decade-long Asian Games medal drought, but the path kept getting even more challenging. Igor Stimac's Tigers were humbled by Saudi Arabia in what proved to be their biggest challenge. But nonthing of that short happend with the Indian men's hockey team, who were in complete control against defending champions, Japan. Catch the match HERE.
FULL-TIME!! IND 0-2 KSA (90'+3)
The match ends with a Samuel James free-kick that goes wide, and India is eliminated from the Asian Games men's football event. The women's squad has previously exited the group stage.
3-minute Added time
6:50 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (90')
Saleh Waheeb receives the ball after a run around the defence, beats a couple of India defenders, but fails to score. Ahmed Al Ghamdi gets to the ball, but Jhingan blocks his shot.
6:46 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (87')
Saudi Arabia continues to launch attacks, one after the other. Dheeraj makes another stop to prevent a definite goal from being scored. Al Ghamdi then fires on goal, but it is deflected for a corner kick.
6:42 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (83')
Dheeraj made a great save!
Saudi Arabia is attacking with set pieces once more. Rayan Hamed heads in a lobbed pass, which Dheeraj pushes off at the last second to keep Saudi Arabia to only two goals thus far.
6:40 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (80')
Hussain Khalid receives the ball on the left side and attempts to cross into the centre. As India pursues, he returns to his own half, allowing his squad to launch another attack from the ground up.
6:35 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (75')
The Indian team appears fatigued today and risks conceding more goals, as happened against China in the first game. Meanwhile, Marran has a ball in the box, but Dheeraj takes it away from him. The Al Nassr forward requests a penalty but is denied.
6:31 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (71')
A terrible clash of players in the Indian half as two Indians collided, resulting in Saudi regaining possession of the ball. However, Jhingan and company ensure that the ball does not pose any further problems.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam gives over the ball cheaply near midfield, and Saad takes off again into the final third. Saudi beats the Indian defence, but Al Ghamdi's attempt goes wide.
6:28 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (69')
Saad continues to attract defenders, and Ayush Chhetri dives right into the book. Two Indian players have been booked in short succession.
Another Yellow Card!!
6:28 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (69')
Narender Gahlot tries to take the ball away from Saad but ends up kicking a collapsing Saad. As a result, the Odisha FC defender receives a booking.
Bryce Miranda receives the ball on the left flank and attempts to break through the defence. However, he loses control of the ball, which eventually goes out of play.
6:24 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (65')
Saudi Arabia also makes two substitutions, bringing on Aloyayri and Al Sibyani. The Saudi team continues to bolster its ranks in order to preserve its lead and advance to the quarterfinals.
6:20 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (61')
Three changes for India!
In: Bryce Miranda, Ayush Dev Chhetri, Azfar Noorani, Out: Rahim Ali, Amarjit Singh Kiyam, Abdul Rabeeh
6:15 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-2 KSA (57')
57' Marran gets his second goal!
After receiving a through ball, Khalil Marran draws Dheeraj to him in the box, and as the Goa custodian offers space to his left, Marran buries and tucks the ball into the net for his and Saudi's second of the game.
Another Goal By Khalil Marran!!
6:12 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-1 KSA (54')
From here, the Indian squad will try to adapt its approach. Stimac's men are currently down in this knockout match, thus a fully defensive approach will fail.
Dheeraj Singh instructs his team to be calm. So far, the team has conceded only one goal against a country that ranks quite high in FIFA Rankings (in terms of the senior side) and has defended fairly effectively.
6:08 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-1 KSA (51')
Goal For Saudi Arabia!
Khalil Marran receives the ball in the box from a right-side cross. Khalil Marran heads the ball into the net after Mohammed Abu Al Shamat whips in a cross.
6:05 pm: 2nd Half - IND 0-0 KSA (48')
Lalchungnunga's challenge on Al Ghamdi results in a free kick for Saudi. Musab takes the free kick, which is on target, but Dheeraj deflects it. The FC Goa custodian performed admirably.
Second Half Begins
A Quick Update of the 1st Half
A defensive masterclass from India was the highlight of the first half of their 2023 Asian Games, men's football round of 16 clash against a dominant Saudi Arabian side. The match started with the Saudi, as expected, taking charge. But the Indians were up to the task, especially the defenders with ever-reliable Sandesh Jhingan marshalling the backline with some brave-heart performance. Chinglensana Konsham was booked for a professional foul in the 39th, one tactical aspect of defensive India. Well, there was woodwork too. In the 22nd minute, the Indian bar was rattled by a Musab Al-Juwayr stunner. Sunil Chhetri often found himself alone, in the opposition half. Understandable!
IND 0-0 KSA
HALF-TIME ⏳— Indian Football Team (@IndianFootball) September 28, 2023
Some brave defending, and a few counter-attacks, see the two teams head into the tunnel on level terms 🙌
IND 🇮🇳 0-0 🇸🇦 KSA
Watch LIVE on @SonySportsNetwk 📱💻#INDKSA ⚔️ #19thAsainGames 🏅 #IndianFootball ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/ZQ5iQpcEyh
5:47 pm: 1st Half - IND - 0-0 KSA (45+2')
Great Save by Jhingan!!
As Saudi effortlessly beats India's low-block with low passes, India goes into ball-watching mode. The ball is passed to Zakaria on the left, who has his shot stopped by Jhingan.
5:45 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (45')
Change for India!
In: Samuel James, Out: Gurkirat Singh
5:43 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (43')
The Indian team has two players in the final third, with the remaining eight staying back to limit the opponents as much as possible. Meanwhile, Asiri loses discipline and ends himself in the book following a vain attempt to win the ball in midfield.
5:40 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (40')
Gurkirat fouls Musab Al-Juwayr to get into trouble for a reckless challenge. Al-Juwayr takes the free kick, which Dheeraj saves. This was the first time Dheeraj had been put to the test.
5:39 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (39')
Sana Singh tries to block Asiri and gives up a free kick. The HFC defender must be cautious because he is already on a yellow card.
5:35 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (35')
Saudi Arabia counter-attacks with another long ball into the area. Sana Singh clears it, but Saudi returns. Saudi crosses a through ball into the box to the middle, but India manages to get it out of the way as Dheeraj eventually gains possession of the ball.
5:33 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (33')
India survives the set-piece effort for another corner on the opposite side. Marran tries to sneak it in from here, but Stimac's side prevents him.
5:31 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (31')
Musab takes the free kick, a right-footed curler that sails just wide. The ball was spinning, but it didn't dip at the correct time as it passed through the net.
5:29 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (29')
Zakaria attempts a run into the box, but Sana Singh stops him with a late challenge. Saudi is awarded a free kick in front of the box, and the HFC center-back is booked.
Yellow Card to Chinglensana!
5:26 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (26')
Saudi Arabia launch another counter-attack, this time from the left, with the goal of putting more men in the India box. However, India executes an excellent clearing to move the ball out of danger.
5:22 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (22')
Saudi Arabia is forced to shoot from a distance, as India maintains a tight low-block. Musab Al-Juwayr shoots with his right foot, beating Dheeraj but shaking the woodwork.
Off The Bar! Dheeraj Beaten!
5:18 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (18')
Long balls from Saudi Arabia are easily dealt with by India, with Lalchungnunga reaching there before Saad Al-Nasser. Following an initial clearance, Haitham Asiri attempts another shot, which again goes off-target.
5:16 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (16')
Sunil Chhetri takes the free kick following a practice-ground routine that included a dummy run by Rabeeh. Chhetri's free-kick is headed down by Jhingan, but Saudi Arabia clears it virtually off the goal line.
5:12 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (12')
Rahul KP attempts to carry the ball from midfield but is mobbed by three Saudi players who take the ball from him and throw it to Musab Al-Juwayr. The midfielder attempts a shot, which flies off-target past a fully stretched Dheeraj.
5:10 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (10')
Saad tries to get the ball into the final third, but Amarjit Kiyam intercepts him with a sliding tackle. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, manages an off-target shot.
5:08 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (8')
Nervy start from India against relentless Saudi attack. But so far so good, and from a counter, enter the opponent's box in the 8th minute.
5:05 pm: 1st Half - IND 0-0 KSA (5')
Saudi Arabia is attempting to play long balls into the final third, but the bottom block has been adequately manned by Sana and Jhingan thus far.
The initial side forms resemble a brick wall up against a submachine gun. India is using two blocks of four players, whereas Saudi Arabia is using a computer-attacking 3-5-1-1 formation.
Starting line-up of Saudi Arabia!
Ahmed Al Jubaya – Rayan Hamed, Mohammed Abu Al Shamat, Mohammed Al-Yami, Zakaria Hawsawi – Faisal Al-Ghamdi (C), Musab Al-Juwayr, Haitham Asiri, Awad Al-Nashri, Saad Al-Nasser – Mohammed MarRan
4:15 pm: The starting XI for the Indian Men's announced
So to say, this is a clash between the U-23 squads but both sides have a number of star players in their respective ranks. India will rely on the mercurial captain Sunil Chhetri, while the Green Falcons, the nickname of the Saudi team, has a free-scoring forward in young Mohammed Marran.
The last time the two teams met in the Asian Games, India lost the quarter-final match by a solitary goal in New Delhi in 1982. Then, the competition was meant for the senior national teams. The overall head-to-head, in all competitions, is also led by Saudi Arabia -- 3-0, with the latest one a 7-1 defeat at the 2006 AFC Asian Cup.
For the record, rules were changed to make Asiad football an under-23 affair starting the 2002 Busan Asian Games. Each team, however, can have up to three overage players, just like in the Olympic Games.
India escaped the group stage after finishing second, on goals scored, in Group A behind hosts China and they will play in the knockouts for the first time in 13 years at the Asian Games. Igor Stimac's men suffered a 5-1 defeat against China, then beat Bangladesh 1-0. In the final group match, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Myanmar.
Saudi Arabia also finished second in their group, B, behind Iran with two wins -- 3-0 against Mongolia and 3-1 against Vietnam -- and one draw -- goalless against Iran. Despite their rich pedigree, the Green Falcons are yet to win the Asiad football gold medal. They came close to winning the competition in 1982 and 1986, but settled with bronze and silver, respectively.