India scored an injury time penalty goal to hold two-time champions China 2-2 in their last group match and bow out of the AFC Under-16 Football Championship with their head held high here on Thursday.
India took the lead through Daniel Lalhlimpuia’s 19th minute strike but China replied with two goals through captain Wang Jinxian (21st) and Zhang Yuning (32nd) in the Group D match.
Defender Myron Mendes scored from the spot in the third of the four-minute stoppage time to salvage some pride for India though he broke Chinese hearts.
With Uzbekistan losing to Syria in a simultaneous match, China were heading into Sunday’s quarter-final as contenders for group winners but the dying minute Indian equaliser saw them crash out of the tournament.
A win today would not have ensured India a quarterfinal berth after Syria’s victory over Uzbekistan but holding China 2-2 was no mean achievement.
India ended the tournament on two points as they had lost their opening group match to Uzbekistan (2-3) before playing out a goal-less draw with Syria. China finished third on three points behind Syria (four) and Uzbekistan (four).
Two top teams from each of the four groups qualify for the quarterfinals.
China were dominant from the outset but it was India who drew the first blood after China missed as many as three chances, when Lalhlimpuia beat his marker and scored past Chinese goalie Chen Wei off Raja Rawat’s sublime cross in the 19th minute.
The Chinese were quick to reply as they took only two minutes to cancel out India’s lead through Jinxian’s simple header off Chen Yi’s cross. They added the second goal in the 32nd minute with Mohammed Sajid’s deflection off Yuning’s strike took the wrong way inside the Indian net, leaving goalie Supratim Bhattacharjee stood still.
The Indians dominated the second half with play confined at the Chinese half for most part but Colm Toal’s boys failed to break free for an opening before the dying minute of the stoppage time.
Second half substitute Chen Weiming brought down Alen Deory inside the penalty area, prompting Jordan referee Naser Al Ghafary to point at the spot in the third minute of the 4—minute stoppage time and Myron Mendes converted the chance to earn a point for India.
Mendes expertly took his penalty at the extreme right of the goal as goalkeeper Wei guessed the ball right but his stretched arms failed to reach the goal-bound shot.
Keywords: AFC Under-16 Football Championship