India slumped to a 0-1 defeat after conceding a late penalty in its second AFC U-23 Championship Qualifiers match against hosts UAE at the Fujairah Stadium in Dubai. (More Football News)
Both the Group E encounters ended in similar fashion on Wednesday night. Oman got the better of Kyrgyz Republic thanks to a late penalty like hosts UAE, who pipped India owing to an 82nd-minute spot-kick by Abdulla Idrees.
Igor Stimac made only one change to the team that got a 2-1 win against Oman in its previous game, having brought in Lalengmawia at the expense of Aniket Jadhav to make the mid-field more compact against UAE.
Both the teams started with a safety-first approach before Rahim Ali squeezed in to make room for himself in the six-yard-box, but before he could connect to the long throw-in by Asish, UAE goalkeeper Suhail Abdulla Almutawa collected the ball calmly.
Before the clock struck the half-hour mark, India launched back-to-back attacks but the opponents dealt with them to cut the scorer out of the equation.
Rahul KP got himself onto the end of a cross from the right by Asish, and tapped it in past the keeper, but his celebrations were cut short after referee Fu Ming adjudged Rahim Ali, who had allegedly touched the ball on the way, to be off-side.
The hosts re-joined with more vigour and they took only four minutes to launch their first attack in the second half.
Marwan Fahad leapt above others to convert a long throw-in but Dheeraj came to the rescue act in the 49th minute.
UAE kept on pushing the Indian defenders vigorously in search of the opening goal.
Ten minutes to the end of the regulation time, they earned a penalty as Suresh brought Ali Saleh down inside the box.
Defender Abdulla Idrees broke the deadlock from the spot-kick to hand UAE a crucial lead in the 82nd minute.
All four teams are locked on three points each, with identical goal differences. The group-topper will qualify for the finals in Uzbekistan next year, whereas four best runner-up nations will also join them.
India will next take on the Kyrgyz Republic here on Saturday.