January 28, 2023

Source: republicworld.com

India finished ahead of Kuwait but behind toppers Australia and second-placed Iraq qualification event, which identified participants for next year’s tournament in Uzbekistan.

Skipper Taison Singh and Gurkirat Singh struck in either half as India edged past hosts Kuwait 2-1 in their final qualification match but the third-place finish in Group H was not good enough to qualify for the next year’s AFC U-20 Asian Cup.

India finished ahead of Kuwait but behind toppers Australia and second-placed Iraq qualification event, which identified participants for next year’s tournament in Uzbekistan.

Top teams from all the 10 groups and the five best runners-up qualified for the final tournament, with Uzbekistan getting a direct entry as hosts in the 16-team continental event to be held from March 1 to 18 in 2023.

India had lost 2-4 and 1-4 to Iraq and Australia respectively in their previous group matches.

In the match against Kuwait on Tuesday night, Taison Singh and Gurkirat Singh scored for India while Saleh Almehtab pulled one back for the hosts at the Ali Sabah Al-Salem Stadium.

India started on the front foot, and in the very first minute, a long throw hurled into the box caused some confusion in the Kuwait defence, resting in an Indian corner.  Himanshu Jangra made a fine run at the near post onto a Vibin cross, but his effort went over the cross-bar.

India goalkeeper Zahid Bukhari had to make a crucial save a minute later off a shot by Fahad Alazmi.

However, Taison gave India the early lead in the eighth minute when he burst into the box, skipped past his marker and laced a powerful shot into the top corner.

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Kuwait pounced on the attack soon and Jarah Alheleeli struck the Indian cross-bar from a free-kick.

Kuwait continued to attack in search of the equaliser, while the Indians tried to hit their opponents on the break.

Jangra broke free on the left, cut in and tried his luck but his shot was blocked.

Jangra had another opportunity in the 19th minute when a Vibin corner found the former, who nodded it into the ground but Kuwait goalkeeper Bader Alajmi was equal to

the task.

With around five minutes from half time, Abhishek Tekcham was released down the right by Taison, as the former beat his marker, entered the box, and sent in a low cross but nobody could get onto the end of it.

India went into the break with a goal lead.

Kuwait came out with more impetus after the change of ends with Yosef Alshammari looking to make a few darting runs.

However, it was Taison who had the first real chance of the half in the 53rd minute when he charged down the right, cut inside, and unleashed a left-footer that was saved by Alajmi.

A little after the hour mark, a Vibin corner fell to Gurkirat, whose header was blocked. Sajad Hussain struck the rebound over the target.

With under 20 minutes to go, it was a tale of two free-kicks. Kuwait captain Saleh Almehtab curled in a free-kick into the Indian goal to equalise for the hosts.

Kuwait’s joy lasted for just three minutes as Taison was brought down outside the Kuwaiti area. Gurkirat stepped up and sent a powerful shot towards the goal which  took a deflection before going into the net.

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