India qualify as table-toppers despite loss against Kyrgyz Republic

Kyrgyz Republic beat India 2-1 at the Dolen Omurzakov Stadium in Bishkek on Tuesday as the Blue Tigers ended their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on a low even though they finished at the summit of Group A thanks to goal-difference. Anton Zemlyanukhin and Mirlan Murzaev gave the hosts a two-goal advantage before Jeje Lalpekhlua pulled one back late on.

Zemlyanukhin opened the scoring in the second minute when he was perfectly placed in the box to convert a well-weighed cross. A wonderful first-time finish by Zemlyanukhin with his left-foot was enough to give the home-side a lead.

Kyrgyz Republic continued with the pressure and had India on the back foot for most of the opening period. However, Rowllin Borges’ free-kick was converted by Balwant Singh on the rebound in the 19th minute only for it to be ruled out for offside.

Balwant, in fact, had the ball in the back of the net once again on the half-hour mark after rounding the opposition goalkeeper. Once again though the flag was raised for offside as the hosts took a 1-0 lead into the break.

The second half witnessed more of the same with Kyrgyz Republic looking more enterprising of the two sides in attack. Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu pulled off a magnificent save early in the second period, but he was powerless while trying to prevent the hosts’ second goal of the night.

An intelligent cut-back from the byline presented a wonderful opportunity for the White Falcons to double the lead in the 73rd minute. Murzaev found himself in the right place at the right time and adjusted his body to place his shot beyond Sandhu and into the net to make it 2-0.

India did grab a consolation strike late on after Halicharan Narzary produced a delightful cross into the box from the left flank. Mizo Sniper Jeje made no mistake with an excellent header past the goalkeeper to half the deficit to 2-1. However, in the end it wasn’t enough from preventing a win for Kyrgyz Republic, who ended their qualification campaign in second spot in Group A.  

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