India put up a brave fight before going down 4-8 against mighty Japan in their must-win last Group D match and crash out of AFC U-17 Asian Cup here on Friday. In a game of two halves, India clawed back into the match in the second half and gave Japan a real run for their money, before losing the match at the end. The Blue Colts came into the encounter needing to win, in order to stand a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals of the tournament, but that could not happen. India were forced to make one change to their starting XI, as Mukul Panwar was brought in as centre-back in place of the suspended Pramveer.
Japan were dominant from the very start, enjoying possession, while India played a mid-block game.
The Blue Colts looked to contain Japan and funnel them into a narrow area. Thanglalsoun Gangte was the only one in the centre circle, looking to hold up the ball for the counter-attacks.
Lalpekhlua Ralte had a couple of runs down the left, while Korou looked to cut in and give support to Gangte.
However, for all their intense runs both on and off the ball, Japan’s quality showed when they came close to scoring time and again.
Gakuto Kawamura opened the scoring for Japan when he ran on to a rebound at the edge of the area and smashed it in. He came close to doubling the lead for Japan a few minutes later, when his shot from outside the box came off the woodwork.
India’s only chance in the first half came when Vanlalpeka Guite chipped a ball through to Korou Singh inside the Japan box, but the latter smashed his volley straight at the opposition goalkeeper.
That missed opportunity came back to haunt India later on as Gaku Nawata went through on goal and slipped it past Sahil to double Japan’s lead. Nawata added a third just seconds before half-time, to make it 3-0 in his team’s favour.
India came out with a lot more vigour in the second half, and immediately clawed one goal back from a set-piece. A free-kick from the left flank was swung in by Guite, as an airborne Mukul Panwar tapped it in.
The mighty Japan, however, responded with two goals in the next couple of minutes, the first scored by Shuto Nagano, and the second by Yumeki Yoshinaga.
Despite being 1-5 down, the Indian colts didn’t lose hope.
A little over the hour mark, Gangte sprung forward on the left, proceeded to the line and cut it back for Danny Meitei to tap it in.
At the other end, a foul by Mukul inside the Indian box resulted in a penalty being awarded to Japan. India keeper Sahil Poonia, however, stood tall and dived to his right to save the effort from Ryunosuke Sato.
The India keeper immediately launched a counter, that resulted in Danny sprinting into the Japan box from the left. As he attempted to cross it to Gangte, a stray deflection off a Japanese leg went in to reduce the margin to 3-5.
Japan found their way back again, when Yotaro Nakajim scored their sixth goal of the night, to take a 6-3 lead.
The Indians, however, didn’t give up.
With 10 minutes left, Lalpekhlua Ralte scampered into the box and cut it back for captain Korou to tap it in and make it 4-6.
Eight minutes of injury time were added, giving further hope to the Blue Colts. For a good part of the injury time, Japan were pegged back by India’s high press, unable to get out of their own half.
However, Japan showed their quality as Gota Yamaguchi and Shungo Sugiora netted back-to-back goals to secure the three points for Japan.
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