January 14 – In the pre-match talk they were barely mentioned. Despite drawing their opening game against their more fancied UAE hosts, Bahrain had been written off from progressing against an India that was being trumpeted as having dramatically awoken from its football slumber.
After 91 minutes it was a penalty that reversed the accepted script. Bahrain was awoken from a slumber while India’s Blue Tigers had been put back to sleep.
India coach Stephen Constantine made two changes from the team that lost to the UAE, bringing in defender Sandesh Jhingan and midfielder Rowlin Borges for a game in which a draw would guarantee them safe passage to the next round. Bahrain needed a win to guarantee their progression.
Bahrain beat India 5-2 in their only previous meeting in the Asian Cup, Bahrain’s biggest win in the competition, and they started this match looking like they wanted to pick up where they left off in 2011.
On six minutes the Bahrainis missed three attempts within the space of two minutes. First Komail Alaswad’s left footed shot from outside the box was saved in the centre of the goal. Then Jamal Rashed’s left footed shot from the centre of the box missed to the right followed by another left footed shot, this time from Sayed Dhiya Saeed which was again mopped up in the centre of the goal by Indian keeper Gurpreet Singh.
With Bahrain falling foul of India’s offside trap five times and failing to threaten from their two corners, India were looking fairly untroubled to secure the point needed for the next round. At the other end Bahrain’s keeper Sayed Shubba Alawi didn’t have a shot to save. Had the awakened Indian elephant inexplicably dozed off?
If not comatose it certainly wasn’t showing encouraging signs of life. The second half followed a similar pattern to first half with the Bahrainis pushing but lacking the penetrative power to threaten India’s giant keeper Singh.
A right footed shot from Abdulla Yusuf Helal missed left of goal on 72 minutes, Tashed had a shot blocked on 74, Abdulla Yusuf Helal had a shot from outside the box saved on 78 minutes while on 80 minutes Sami Al Husaini saw his shit go wide. It was one way traffic until the unthinkable twist in the tail of the match and the tale of India’s rollercoaster campaign. Hamed Alshamsan broke into the Indian box and was brought down by Pronay Halder.
Upstepped Rashed. Left footed high into the centre of goal. Indian hearts broken, Bahrain joy unbridled. The elephant slunk off to a shadier place to think about things. Constantine went from hero to zero and said after the match that his time was now over in India. It could have been so different.
Bahrain remain in the limelight, finishing third in the group on equal points with Thailand but behind them on based in their head-to-head record. They will now meet the winners of Group B or C.
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