India qualify for AFC Asian Cup third round after a draw against Afghanistan

India drew 1-1 with Afghanistan in the World Cup Qualifiers, securing a berth in the Asian Cup’s next qualifying round on Tuesday, thanks to an own goal by the Afghan goalkeeper.

India took a 1-0 lead thanks to an error by Afghanistan goalkeeper Ovays Azizi in the 75th minute. However, Hossein Zamani equalised in the 81st minute in a match hampered by poor refereeing.

At the first leg match in Dushanbe in 2019, the two teams had also drawn 1-1.

The game was loose and fast-paced, with the Afghans being more physical in a game littered with fouls and referee Ali Reda failing to keep the players in order.

Both teams had about equal ball possession, with India having ten shots on target to Afghanistan’s seven. The Afghans, on the other hand, committed 16 fouls to the Indians’ nine. Three Afghan players received yellow cards compared to one Indian player.

In the 10th minute, India captain Sunil Chhetri took a shot at the opponent goal following a ball from Glan Martins, but the Afghan goalkeeper recovered his left-footed drive from a tight angle.

The Afghans gained confidence and were the better team in the latter part, with a few efforts on target but none causing any problems for Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh.

Early in the second half, the Afghans looked better, but India took the lead in the 75th minute.

Suresh Wangjam attempted to reach Kuruniyan’s high cross from the left. The ball dropped down by the goalkeeper’s hands and glided in between his legs into the empty goal as Afghan goalkeeper Azizi leaped for what should have been an easy collection.

The Indian’s joy was short-lived, however, as Zamani curled past Gurpreet after the Afghan striker regained the ball from two Indian defenders who should have done more.

India finished third in Group E, behind top-placed Qatar and Oman, and ahead of Afghanistan, India has seven points from eight matches.

India finished the World Cup qualification with one win, four draws, and three losses under Igor Stimac. Apart from the triumph against Bangladesh in their previous encounter, the 0-0 draw in the first leg against Asian champions Qatar in 2019 was the campaign’s highlight.

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