The Indian football team fought hard before falling 1-2 in an international friendly against Bahrain on Wednesday. Midfielder Mohammed Al-Hardan scored the opening goal of the match: a volley in the 38th minute at the Al Muharraq Stadium. Al-Hardan’s strike proved to be not enough for the home side as the Indian team, whose seven members were unable to reach Bahrain with the rest of the squad on Tuesday due to visa problems, hit back in the 59th minute via a Rahul Bheke header.
Head coach Igor Stimac’s move to introduce Naorem Roshan Singh at the start of the second half proved decisive as his assist helped India restore equality.
India’s joy was short-lived, however, when Mahdi Humaidan scored the all-important goal in the 88th minute to seal the deal in Bahrain’s favour.
Against 91st-ranked Bahrain, Stimac’s side, currently 104th in the FIFA rankings, struggled from the start and, were it not for skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s good save from the spot, Indians would be at half-time lagged behind by a larger margin.
Bahrain were awarded a penalty in the sixth minute of the game after a handball from Indian defensive mainstay Sandesh Jhingan, but goalkeeper Gurpreet, who ducked to the left, led by example to deny the hosts an early lead with a brilliant save.
Undeterred, Bahrain pressed hard, pushing India on the back foot with their attacking play, even as Mohamed Marhoon hit the woodwork after getting the ball into the penalty area. Mahdi hit the ball on the bounce, but his effort went wide.
Meanwhile, India’s Dane Farooq received one of their better chances from Anwar Ali’s loft ball from the right, but his header didn’t go on target.
Gurpreet anticipated the post well, but he couldn’t stop Al-Hardan’s volley from finding the back of the net.
Stimac made a change to the XI at the start of 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 equalizing goal against the course of the game.
After mastering the offside trap, Bheke headed the ball into the back of the net after Roshan Singh put in a cross from the right.
Bahrain tried to control the game by retaining possession, but India held on and their defense frustrated the opponents endlessly.
However, Bahrain had the last laugh thanks to Mahdi’s winner.
India will play the friendly as part of their preparations for the Asian Cup Qualifiers in June.
India has never beaten Bahrain. In their last six head-to-head matches, India’s best result was a 0-0 draw in 1982.
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