The Indian U-23 national team ended its AFC U-23 Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-0 loss to Tajikistan in its second match of the group stage in Tashkent on Sunday. Daler Yodgorov’s 30th-minute strike and Dolohov’s 85th-minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign, ending without a point out of a maximum six. The opponents had mounted a barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match, trying to unsettle the Indian defense but some astute goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh kept them at bay. In the 10th minute, the custodian made a fine save to deny the opponents an early breakthrough at the Pakhtakor Stadium. India could take the lead in the 12th minute but Sarthak Golub’s header off a Komal That free-kick failed to find the net, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines; courtesy of an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound. After a nervy start, the Indian team found themselves some bright spots and in the 27th minute, Rahim Ali found Komal inside the box. With defenders closing in, Komal could only launch the ball over the woodwork in an attempt to give India the lead. India’s attacking momentum was short-lived as Tajikistan took the lead in the 30th minute with Daler finding the back of the net from inside the box.
Attempting to find the equalizer before half-time, Rahim Ali went on a run down the middle and found Anirudh Thapa, whose shot was blocked by the Tajik defense line. India’s quest for the equalizer kept them on their toes and soon after the second half restarted, an opportunity came in the 48th minute. Rahim Ali brought the ball down inside the box and passed it to an onrushing Abdul Sahal, who failed to hit the target from outside the box. Restricting the opponents in the half for much of the second half, India had a chance in the 60th minute and once again it fell to Sarthak, who headed wide a Vinit Rai free-kick. India tried to keep Tajikistan on the back-foot but could not find the decisive goal. Tajikistan held on to the lead and committed bodies in defense. The opponents scored through Solehov in the 85th minute and saw out the match as the full-time scoreline read 2-0 in their favor.
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