Indian colts go down fighting as they succumb to Penaloza’s brace

Photo courtesy: AIFF website

The Indian Under-17 football team put on a heroic performance in their second match of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup before being edged out 2-1 by Colombia at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Monday. Juan Penaloza came up with a double for Colombia, as Jeakson Singh scripted history by scoring India’s first ever goal in a FIFA World Cup in any format.

The match started off in scrappy fashion, with neither team able to string together more than a few passes together. While India were content playing the long balls, their opponents were restricted to shooting from distance without much joy.

The first noteworthy chance came India’s way in the 16th minute. Following their first invasion of Colombia’s penalty box, Abhijit Sarkar found himself goalwards with only goalkeeper Kevin Mier to beat. However, the Colombian custodian was up to the task, successfully blocking Sarkar’s shot. Two minutes later, Colombia got their first shot on target as Dheeraj Singh did well to parry away a vicious free-kick.

As the game continued, the football became more free-flowing, although chances were still few and far between. Colombia had a great chance to go a goal up in the 37th minute as Jaminton Campaz found himself at the end of a free header from a delicious cross. However, goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh seemed to have carried his form from the previous match as he came up with a diving save.

As half time approached, the visitors stepped on the pedal and got themselves a double chance in the 43rd minute. First, Dheeraj came up with another splendid save to deny Yadir Meneses’ snap shot. The resulting corner, taken by Meneses himself, struck the crossbar as India did their best to hang on.

It was India though, who ended the half with arguably the best chance. Rahul KP showed brilliant control to chest the ball and complimented it with a sweeter volley. Unfortunately for the Indians, it struck the woodwork and went out of harm’s way. That concluded the first half at 0-0, as the home team went into the tunnel to rapturous applause.

Contrary to the first, the second half started off with end-to-end football that saw both teams taking the game to their opponents.

It was the visitors who finally broke the deadlock in the 49th minute courtesy of some individual brilliance on the part of Penaloza. He collected the ball on the right flank, cut in and unleashed a curling shot into Dheeraj’s far corner, giving him little chance to respond.

The home team seemed to switch off for a while but the goal spurred them on. They took forward the attacks with gusto but lacked a decisive end product.

The 76th minute was the one where India were inches away from equalising. Some great play from Aniket Jadhav ended up with him laying it off for Nongdamba Naorem, whose shot was just about saved by Mier.

The first ever goal came for the hosts when Jeakson rose high in the 81st minute to thump in a corner that sent the fans into a frenzy. Unfortunately, Penaloza crept into the box a couple of minutes later and scored his and Colombia’s second of the night.

That would be the final goal of the encounter, although there was still time for Dheeraj Singh to pull off another splendid save from a powerful shot in injury time.

The 2-1 loss leaves India’s chances of qualifying hanging by a thread, as they stay without a point at the bottom of Group A.

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