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King’s Cup: India squander chances galore, miss bronze medal after solitary-goal loss to Lebanon (Ld)

King's Cup: India squander chances galore, miss bronze medal after solitary-goal loss to Lebanon (Ld)

Chiang Mai (Thailand), Sep 10 (SocialNews.XYZ) India's return to Thailand for the 49th King's Cup football competition ended in disappointment as Igor Stimac's team lost to Lebanon by a solitary goal in a hard-fought clash in the third-place playoff here on Sunday.

Kassam Al Zein scored with an acrobatic back-volley off a corner kick in the 77th minute in the hard-fought clash which was enough to seal Lebanon's first victory against India in 2023.


India, bronze medal winners in 2019, squandered many chances as Lebanon, who couldn’t get the better of India in their last two meetings in Bhubaneswar and Bangalore, proved to be third-time lucky despite the Blue Tigers putting immense pressure on the rival defence, especially during the closing stages.

Igor Stimac's team made many attacks, virtually parking themselves in the Lebanon half for most of the second half but their search for an equaliser proved futile.

After a goalless first half in which both teams made many attempts, India survived a close call in the 48th minute when goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh pulled off a save.

In the 64th minute a horrendous goof-up in defence nearly spelt doom for India before Gurpreet dashed out in the nick of time, sweeping the ball away.

In the 69th minute, Brandon Fernandes managed to release a perfect pass under intense pressure. Rahul KP made a spirited sprint to reach the ball and made a pass, but Lebanon keeper Khalil rushed out to collect it safely.

Just when it looked like India would force open the Lebanon defence at any moment, things completely went the other way as the West Asian side made most of a corner kick. 

While Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu managed to palm away the first attempt, he had no time to block when Kaseem Al Zein went for a spectacular acrobatic back volley from close range. It was a goal that indeed came against the run of play but made all the difference as the Indians failed to come up with a fitting reply during the rest of the match.

Thus India finished their 2023 King’s Cup campaign without a win. While the semifinal clash against mighty Iraq ended in a defeat in the tiebreaker after a spirited 2-2 draw in the regulation time that surprised the Asian giants, the third-place battle against Lebanon was lost after the Indians let go of several scoring opportunities.

The Blue Tigers had a chance in the 79th minute when Lallianzuala Chhangte and Nikhil Raj displayed slick teamwork, with Chhangte cutting inside and unleashing a shot at the goal. But the attempt sailed high and wide. In the 90th minute, Brandon Fernandes stepped up to take a free kick from the right, but his shot was quickly cleared away by the defence,

The match ended 1-0 in favour of Lebanon, leaving the Indian men's team disappointed.

Going by the trend of the match, India had no reason to troop out of the pitch as the team that finished on the losing side. The Blue Tigers teased and tormented the rival defence repeatedly but found wanting at crucial moments as they looked clueless at the goalmouth. 

Everyone in the attacking line had their share of chances; the Lebanon defence was on their knees at times, only to heave a sigh of relief when the Indians faltered at the front on repeated intervals.

India were certainly not short of ideas in the middle. They created chances -– Manvir Singh and Chhangte dashed from both flanks to regularly keep the Lebanon goalkeeper on his toes — but when the real chances came, the ball either flew over the bar or went wide of the target, much to the dismay of the good number of Indian spectators in the stands.

If this was the story in the first half, then the script hardly changed for the next 45 minutes. 

Head coach Stimac played all his permutations and combinations in quick succession, but a goal from India remained elusive. The five changes Stimac made in the second half did give the required impetus to the attack, but when push came to shove, neither Brandon Fernandes nor Rahul KP could do the needful. It was one of those days when the goalmouth remained tightly shut for the Indian forwards.

Source: IANS

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King's Cup: India squander chances galore, miss bronze medal after solitary-goal loss to Lebanon (Ld)

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