The Indian U-17 National Team put on an inspired display to emerge 2-0 victorious against their Uzbekistan counterparts in the first of two friendly matches at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco da Gama on Sunday, January 22.
The Blue Colts, who have qualified for the AFC U-17 Asian Cup final rounds and are currently preparing for the campaign ahead, did all the damage in the first half, as Korou Singh Thingujam ran the show on the right wing, assisting Vanlalpeka Guite and Lalpekhlua to score a goal each. Uzbekistan had their fair share of chances as well, but India goalkeeper Sahil was equal to any danger he faced and picked up a deserved clean sheet.
It were the visitors who dictated play in the early stages, maintaining possession in the India half but without any real penetration inside the penalty area. Bibiano Fernandes’ boys withstood the early pressure and quickly got into gear, with Lalpekhlua and Korou’s pace causing Uzbekistan plenty of trouble on the flanks.
Lalpekhlua had the game’s first real chance in the 21st minute as he cut inside from the left before unleashing a curling effort towards the far post, but Uzbek keeper Asilbek Numonov tipped it away at full stretch.
India’s continued pressure paid off at the half-hour mark when captain Vanlalpeka Guite found the opener after some explosive work by Korou Singh on the right flank. Korou outran his marker and darted into the penalty area before slipping in a perfectly-weighted ball for Guite in the middle. The Indian captain made the simplest of tap-ins from six yards out to put the hosts ahead.
Uzbekistan almost responded immediately as Abdulkhamid Turgunboev sent a fierce shot from distance, calling Sahil into action for the first time. The Indian custodian displayed quick reflexes to tip it over the crossbar.
On the other end, the hosts continued to dominate the wings. This time, Guite skipped past an Uzbek challenge on the left before cutting the ball back for Thanglalsoun Gangte from the by-line, but it was intercepted by Mamadalikhan Olimov. However, India got their second goal in the very next attack thanks to Korou’s vision, Gangte’s mindfulness and Lalpekhlua’s composure.
Korou’s cross from the right allowed targetman Gangte to draw two Uzbek shirts towards him, leaving Lalpekhlua empty inside the area. The winger set himself up with a good first touch before splendidly curling it past Numonov into the bottom corner. India were two goals to the good at the break.
Determined to bounce back in the contest, Uzbekistan started the second half with plenty of energy but were met by a resolute Indian backline. The centre-back duo of Manjot Singh and Surajkumar Singh Ngangbam didn’t leave any spaces down the middle, leaving the visitors with no option other than going for long-range attempts.
Korou and Lalpekhlua continued their business in the second period as well. The duo combined again and almost recreated the second goal in the 56th minute. Korou picked out Lalpekhlua with a fine cross from the right, but the latter’s shot from the edge of the box was cleared off the line by Dilshod Abdullaev.
After registering two assists, Korou had a big chance to write his name on the scoresheet in the 68th minute. In an exchange of roles, Lalpekhlua whipped in a dangerous cross for Korou at the far post, who could not get the right connection on his first-time shot and sent it into the side-netting.
India kept on coming as the game entered its final stages and were unlucky not to add to their lead. Skipper Guite almost scored his second and India’s third of the day when his low strike from just outside the area clattered into the upright in the 74th minute. He got another opportunity after Uzbekistan failed to clear the rebound, but it was well-saved by Numonov.
India U-17 will play their second friendly match against Uzbekistan on Tuesday, January 24 at 8:30pm IST at the same venue.
India U-17 XI: Sahil – Ricky Meetei Haobam, Surajkumar Singh Ngangbam, Malemngamba Singh Thokchom (53′ Balkaran Singh), Manjot Singh, Vanlalpeka Guite (79′ Prachit Gaonkar), Danny Meitei Laishram, Korou Singh Thingujam, Thanglalsoun Gangte (55′ Shashwat Panwar), Lalpekhlua (86′ Phoenix Oinam), Ashish (55′ Gurnaj Singh Grewal)