KUWAIT CITY (KUWAIT): India's campaign in the AFC U-20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023 Qualifiers suffered a jolt when they went down to Australia 1-4 at the Ali Sabah Al-Salem Stadium in Kuwait City on Sunday.
This was India's second consecutive defeat in the four-team group as they were beaten 2-4 by Iraq in the earlier game.
Like in the match against Iraq two days back, on Sunday too, India were beaten but were certainly not disgraced even if the scoreline pointed towards a rout.
Trailing by two first-half goals, India displayed lots of spirit in the second and pulled one back through skipper Gurkirat Singh, whose sudden long ranger in the 63rd minute caught the Australia goalkeeper Jack Warshawsky on the wrong foot before hitting the post and going in.
It wasn't the only time when Shanmugam Venkatesh's boys had the Australia defence in trouble.
In fact, on more than one occasion the Indians came close to bringing down the rival goal, but poor marksmanship and bad luck denied India at least a couple of goals that could have made the story of the day a little different.
After reducing the margin through Gurkirat, India had a golden chance to restore parity in the 76th minute.
The Indian captain was once again in the thick of things as he rounded off the advancing Aussie goalkeeper to send the ball across an empty goal.
Taison ran in from the other side to flick it, but it was blocked off the line at the nick of time, much to the relief of the Australian bench.
The post denied India another golden opportunity early in the second half when Himanshu Jangra cut inside in great style only to find his shot coming back after hitting the nearest upright on the left side.
In the first half, Australia took the lead in the 12th minute when Garang Koul received the ball just inside the Indian box and smashed it in after going past defender Amandeep.
The Indians actually faltered in the midfield as Alex Bandolato was allowed to take the ball in the middle without a proper challenge and he made the most of it by sending a perfect through to the right.
The more frustrating bit for the Indians was the way the second goal came against them in the 32nd minute. Joseph Forde sent a cross from the right and defender Bikash Yumnam, while trying to clear the ball, came up with a header that landed inside the Indian net.
India conceded two more goals in the last five minutes of the match when they were trying to throw in everything into the attack. While in the 86th minute Adrian Segecic struck spectacularly from a volley that beat Indian custodian Syed Zahid Bukhari all ends up, the final nail was driven in by Max Caputo during injury time.
India XI: Syed Zahid Bukhari, Amandeep, Bikash Yumnam, Sajad Hussain Parray, Abhishek Singh Teckham, Raj Basfore, Taison Singh Loitongbam, Vibin Mohanan, Maheson Singh Tongbram, Gurkirat Singh (captain), Himanshu Jangra (Aphaoba Singh 77').