Asian Cup qualifiers: India top Group A despite loss to Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek: India topped Group A of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers despite going down 1-2 to Kyrgyzstan in their last match at the Dolon Omurzakov Stadium here on Tuesday.

Anton Zemlianukhin and Mirlan Murzaev each scored as Kyrgyzstan secured a 2-1 victory over India, after both teams had earlier guaranteed their progression to next January’s tournament.

India reduced the deficit to one through a late header from Jeje Lalpekhlua but it couldn’t prevent India’s 12-match unbeaten streak coming to an end.

However, Jeje’s late strike meant it was India who advanced as table-toppers due to a higher number of goals scored away from home, according to the tournament’s website.

The hosts had the perfect start to the match as they surged ahead in the second minute itself, off their first attack down the right when Zemlianukhin Anton converted a cross.

The hosts looked the better side trying to gain momentum with their deft passing. The Indians did press hard but Kyrgyz appeared more composed on the ball.

However, India did find the back of the net twice — in the 18th minute and then in the 30th minute, but on both occasions Balwant Singh was ruled off-side.

In the 18th minute, Rowllin Borges’ free-kick from outside the box beat all, rattled the crosspiece and fell for Balwant who put it in but the flag was up much prior.

In the 30th minute, Balwant sneaked it and did put it past rival Goalkeeper Matiash Pavel but was ruled off-side as the home side held on to their one-nil lead till the interval.

Changing over, Jerry Lalrinzuala replaced Narayan Das and was involved in India’s first shot on target in the half. Willing to overlap, he cut in and laid it for Borges but his powerful right-footer was punched away by Pavel. Udanta lurking around did pounce on the rebound but wasn’t able to be incisive.

Off the counter, an acrobatic Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came off with the save of the match palming off from close.

The second substitution came in the 61st minute — Seiminlen Doungel replacing Borges in the 61st minute.

Gurpreet made his presence felt in the 67th minute when he stood in between from a hand-shaking distance to deny Kyrgyz their second goal much to the frustration of a packed crowd.

But the crowd were not to be denied for long – Murzaev making it 2-0 in the 73rd. Murzalev managed to swerve a free-kick beyond Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet’s reach.

Jeje reduced the margin in the 87th minute, heading in Halicharan Narzary’s cross in the 87th minute. But it proved to be late as the visitors failed to grab an equaliser.

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