India lost to Bahrain through a goal from the spot in the last moments of the match. It broke a lot of hearts throughout the country. This is after they have shown a lot of promise in the first match in the Asian Cup. When India recorded a thumping victory over Thailand in the first match, they just needed a draw from the next two games and they would have been through. They lost 0-2 to a UAE side who were clinical in front of goal. Coming into this game knowing that a goalless draw would be enough for sealing a place in the knockout phase.
They played Bahrain in one of the biggest matches in the history of Indian football. India's best performance came in the 1964 tournament where they finished runner-ups to the host Israel. In fact, it was only a four-team event back then. Bahrain knew that a goal and only a goal could save their lives in the tournament. And they put the ball in the back of the net in the 6-minute mark itself, only to see the flag raised for offside. They continued pressing high but the duo of Sandesh Jhingan and Pronoy stood tall and managed to keep them from scoring until the last minute of the 90.
It was fair enough to say that India played for a draw and it proved fairly ineffective in the end. We, at Sports Social, will take a look at the top 3 reasons behind this defeat:
A defensive tactic: The first and the foremost thing which the team and staff will analyse after the game is their approach towards the game. It was as if India was playing at the hands of Bahrain. Coach Stephen Constantine got his tactics wrong. Right from the moment when the referee blew his whistle to kick start the game, India sat deep and looked to play on the counter. But this plan failed to materialise in the game. An offside goal, an indirect free kick from just 8 yards away from the goalpost and a shot hitting the woodwork. This was just to show the dominance of Bahrain. India could well have been 3 or 4 goals behind but the trio of Jhingan, Pranoy and Gurpreet stood like a rock. India should have taken the game to Bahrain rather than waiting for the opportunity.
Lack of composure on the ball: When you play a side which is ranked a good 14 places below you, there is absolutely no need to sit and do ball-watching. Get your offensive players straight at work and get that goal. But it was actually the exact opposite. Too many rushing passes at the middle of the field. No real deliveries into the box. A passing accuracy of 52% will not lead you anywhere in the tournament. In the entire game, India failed to put a single shot on target. While Bahrain managed to get their 6 shots on target out of 22 shots in total. This would give a hint on how dominant Bahrainis were. And it's no surprise that they deserved to win this one.
No dynamism from midfield: Apparently, India's midfield lacked any form of creativity. Too many back-passes. Too many mismatched ones. The midfielders lacked that courage to go further down the pitch and were mostly present in and around their own box. India relied a lot on the long passes and the Bahrain defenders just bullied Chettri and company throughout the course of the game.
The better team won and that was Bahrain by a mile. Indian team was set up with a defensive strategy and that's what cost them the match. Let's hope that they go deep in the next edition of the AFC Asian Cup.