India start 2023 Asian Games soccer badly against China

Hangzhou, (UNI) India went down to hosts China 1-5 in their maiden men’s football group A match of the 19th Asian Games at the Huanglong Sports Centre Stadium here on Tuesday.

Tao Quianglong struck a brace while Tianyi Gao, Dai Weijun and H Fang scored apiece for the winners. KP Rahul was the sole goal getter for India.

Tianyi Gao drew first blood for China in the 17th minute, before KP Rahul equalised for India in the first minute of the opening session injury time.

China restored their lead through Dai Weijun in the 51st minute. before Qianglong Tao came up with a double strike (73’, 76’) in a matter of minutes while Hao Fang (92’) pumped in the fifth for the hosts in th final injury time.

As a result of the loss in the first game, the Indian football team will need to produce positive results against Bangladesh and Myanmar in ther next two outings. Only the top two teams from each group along with four of the six best-placed third-place teams will qualify for the round of 16.

The Indian football team, which came to the Asian Games without any training camp, were rattled at the start of the match with China threatening to score from every attack.

Sunil Chhetri, leading India from the midfield, restored the order and almost gave India the lead in the 14th minute but the powerful long ranger from 25 yards flew over the bar.

However, China continued to press high and took the lead three minutes later, reported.

The Indian backline failed to clear a corner and the ball fell inside the box to China’s Gao Tianyi, who made no mistake from close range and put it past Indian goalkeeper Gurmeet Singh for the first goal.

China kept up the tempo and relentlessly attached from the left flank, and were rewarded in the 23rd minute in the form of a penalty after Gurmeet Singh brought down a charging Tan Long in the box and earned a yellow card.

The Indian custodian, however, made up for it by saving the spot kick taken by Chinese skipper Chenjie Zhu.

The Indian team grew in confidence as the match progressed and started playing as a unit. The team switched play from defence to attack swiftly and kept more possession to put the Chinese on the back foot.

The first half was heading to an end with China leading 1-0 but Rahul KP, with a brilliant solo run, beat the Chinese goalkeeper from a tight angle from the right to bring India level in the injury time of the first half.

While China had an ideal second half, India struggled with cramps to Bryce Miranda, Sumit Rathi and Abdul Rabeeh.

China pumped in their second six minutes into the second half through Dai Weijun, who made it 2-1 to beat Gurmeet Singh from close range.

While India did enjoy a good spell of possession for a while, it did not materialise into goals. On the other hand, back-to-back goals from Qianglong Tao in the 73nd and 76th minute put the game beyond India’s reach.

India tried to pull one back in the final minutes of the play but Hao Fang got the fifth goal for China in the 92nd minute.

Earlier in the day, Sunil Chhetri became only the third Indian to captain the team in two Asian Games (2014 and 2023). Sailen Manna (1951 and 1954) and Bhaichung Bhutia (2002 and 2006) are the other two.

India’s next football match at the Asian Games 2023 will be against Bangladesh on Thursday at the Xiaoshan Sports Centre Stadium. The Blue Tigers will play their final group game against Myanmar on Sunday.

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