India worked hard but, not hard enough to fade the gloss out of Iran. Iran qualified by scoring three times and being fifth team to make it to the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 championships being held at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda and the GMC stadium in Bambolim. UAE was the second team to qualify from Group A while Japan, Uzbekistan and DP Korea – have also made it.
Watched by around three and a half thousand fans – though the official figure was pegged to around five thousand plus- India never took off like they did in their previous two matches. For a first, they went into arrears in the 22nd minute and never recovered from the early blow at the Nehru stadium on Wednesday.
India started cautiously and their defensive approach could have easily undone their own rhythm. Iran, on the other hand, played to a plan – to maintain possession- and there was little the boys from India could do.
Mohammed Ghaderi was one of the stars of Iran. Goalkeeper Dheeraj was the only star from India and his sparkling performance was not enough to blind the boys from Iran. Ghaderis opened the scoring for Iran and had a hand in the second. It was his runs that exposed the chinks in India’s defense, time and again.
Mohammed Sharifi scored the other two goals for Iran through penalties awarded in the 79th and the last minute of the game. Coach Nicolai did not start with Aniket and Raman. The two came in as substitutes in the second half and the decision of the coach was not understood.
India started cautiously and it was this approach that allowed Iran throw caution to the wind and attack India relentlessly. Iran started in the 9th minute when medio Mohammed Ghaderi worked his way down the right flank and sent a floater that eluded the entire Indian defence .Attacking midfielder Reza Mousavian tapped the ball but off the mark.
India counter attacked after seven minutes when defender Sanjiv Stalin overlapped and put Komal Tnatal through but his not to powerful shot was easily collected by Iran’s keeper Ali Gholam Zadeh. This was the closest the Indian came to disturb the Iranian goalkeeper.
Timing their runs well, to distract the Indian defence, Iran played instinctively and with cohesion distracting the Indian defence. Iran frequently changed their style of passing- square and horizontal.
Their tactics succeeded when medio Vahid Namdari collected a pass from the middle and then after getting past his marker, sent the ball smartly to play maker Mohammed Ghadedri whose flying effort from inside the box bulged the right corner of the nets, giving no chance at all to India keeper Dheeraj Singh.
Iran continued with their good play and dominated the major part of the first half with necessary ball control, to retain possession.Their strikers showed great courage and pace and created waves of attacks which India found hard to contain.
Outmaneuvering the India defence once again in the 33rd minute of play, India survived two anxious moments in quick succession. It was keeper Dheeraj who managed to parry the ball away off a shot from Reza Mousavian, the ball landing at the feet of dangerous looking Mohammed Ghaderi whose knee high shot hit the left post ,creating a real scare, but the ball moved out without entering the nets.
India did not have much to offer in the second half. It was goalkkeper Dheeraj wo was the star again during the last fort five minutes of the match. Had it not been for some fine goalkeeping from him, Iran would have wrapped the game way before the hour mark.
India’s chances of making a fight received a setback when defender Boris was sent off for receiving his second yellow card of the match. The last named brought down Ghaderi outside the box.
Reduced to ten men, in the 55 minute of play,India were a subdued a lot, facing all sorts of problems in the defence as well as the midfield and as such no threatening moves were initiated. Nine minutes into the final whistle, India faced a disaster as referee Yaqoob pointed to the penalty spot after an Indian defender brought down Iran’s live wire Mohammad Ghaderi. Mohammad Sharifi who stepped up to take the penalty shot made no mistake to take the lead to 2-0. The third penalty was awarded in the 90th minute and Mohammad Ghaderi stepped up to score his second and his team’s third.
(With Inputs from MINOO FERNANDES and TREVOR PAIVA)