Singapore, July 12 (IANS) The India U-23 football team conceded a second-half goal to go down 0-1 to Singapore U-23 in the second tie of their two-match international friendly series here on Wednesday.
Midfielder Ikshan Fandi scored the lone goal from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute at the Choa Chu Kan stadium. Singapore have thus drawn the series at 1-1.
Fandi helped the hosts take the lead from the spot after India’s Salam Ranjan Singh brought him down inside the penalty box.
Singapore were the superior team in terms of tactics and technique, troubling the Indian defence repeatedly with accurate passes and crosses.
Only an excellent performance by Indian goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, the ability of the Indian defenders to win most of the arial challenges and some desperate defending at times prevented the hosts from running away with a bigger victory margin.
The Singapore defenders also played well. Their covering and man marking was quite good although they sometimes struggled to match the physical superiority of the Indian forwardline, specially striker Manvir Singh.
However, despite enjoying the physical advantage, the Indian forwards were let down by poor finishing and could not register their names on the scoresheet.
Both teams opted for a slow but cautious start as they tried to consolidate the attacks from the midfield. The hosts almost found the back of the net within first five minutes but Vishal Kaith gloved the long ball with much ease.
Indian defender Salam Ranjan Singh, who faced a nasty challenge in his face, was rushed to the hospital for a cut under his lip wherein he had three stitches.
After the clock ticked off the 10-minute mark, Germanpreet Singh, who scored the winner in the first match, fired a long-ranger from the middle of the pitch but Nikhil Poojari couldn’t reach it on time.
For India, Manvir Singh, Nikhil Poojari and skipper Daniel Lalhlimpuia started to press the hosts hard but the opening goal stayed elusive for the visitors.
The Indians had quite a few half-chances in the first half but the sole attack on the target was from Mumbai-based Nikhil Poojari whose feeble header was saved by the opposing goalkeeper in the 38th minute.
After the changeover, Indians came very close to scoring the opener but Nikhil’s left-footer missed the target by a whisker.
With the clock ticking, Manvir outran the Singaporean defender before hitting the side-netting in the 76th minute.
Seven minutes from the end of regulation time, Alen Deory could have found the elusive equaliser for India but he mistimed his jump and failed to make a contact with the ball.
Manvir continued to impose threats towards the final minutes of the match but his inch-perfect pass in the 87th minute got wasted as Nikhil Poojari caught offside.
In the first friendly, India had beaten Singapore 1-0 in the first match on Sunday, a German Germanpreet Singh left-footed curler making the difference between the two sides.
The Indian contingent next travel to Doha on July 15 where they have been clubbed with hosts Qatar, Turkmenistan and Syria in Group C of the AFC U-23 Qualifiers which kick-off on July 19.