The Indian soccer team battled hard before falling 1-2 to higher-ranked Bahrain in an international friendly on Wednesday. Midfielder Mohammed Al-Hardan scored the first goal of the game: a volley in the 38th minute at Al Muharraq Stadium. (More Football News)
Al-Hardan’s goal was not enough for the hosts as the Indian team, seven of whose members were unable to reach Bahrain with the rest of the squad on Tuesday due to visa-related issues, struck back in the 59th minute via a header from Rahul Bheke.
Head coach Igor Stimac’s move to introduce Naorem Roshan Singh at the start of the second half proved to be decisive as it was thanks to his assist that India managed to restore parity. However, India’s joy was short-lived when Mahdi Humaidan scored the biggest goal in the 88th minute to seal the deal for Bahrain.
Facing Bahrain, ranked 91st, Stimac’s team, currently ranked 104th in the FIFA rankings, found things difficult from the get-go and had it not been for a great stop from the point of skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, the Indians would have fallen behind by a larger margin at half time.
Bahrain were awarded a penalty as early as the sixth minute of the match after a handball from Indian defensive prop Sandesh Jhingan, but goalkeeper Gurpreet, diving to his left, set the example to deny the hosts an early lead with a brilliant save.
Undeterred, Bahrain pressed hard and pushed India off the back foot with their attacking play, even as Mohamed Marhoon hit the woodwork after poking the ball into the box. Mahdi hit the ball on the rebound but his attempt went wide.
Meanwhile, in one of his best chances, Denmark’s Farooq of India received a lofted ball from Anwar Ali from the right, but his header missed the target. Gurpreet showed good anticipation in the post but was unable to prevent Al-Hardan’s volley from finding the back of the net.
Stimac made a change to the XI early in the second half, bringing in Naorem Roshan Singh in place of Liston Colaco, and the move soon paid off as the former played a part in India’s much-needed equalizer against the streak of play.
Having overcome the offside trap, Bheke headed the ball into the back of the net after Roshan Singh’s cross from the right. Bahrain tried to control the game by keeping possession, but India stood their ground, their defense frustrating the opponents to no end.
However, Bahrain got the last laugh thanks to the Mahdi winner. India is playing the friendly as part of their preparations for the Asian Cup Qualifiers in June. India has never defeated Bahrain. In the last six matches between them, India’s best result has been a 0-0 draw in 1982.