Super-sub Doungel’s late header helps India salvage a point against Afghanistan

India and Afghanistan had to settle for a point each in their FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 joint second round Qualifiers clash at the Central Republican Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, after a 1-1 draw on Thursday. Zelfagar Nazary scored late in the first-half for the hosts, while substitute Seiminlen Doungel netted in injury-time equaliser for the Blue Tigers.

  • Zelfagar Nazary broke the deadlock after scoring for the hosts just before half-time.
  • Noraollah Amiri almost doubled their lead when he hit the crossbar in the 66th minute.
  • Substitute Seiminlen Doungel came off the bench to score the equaliser for India in injury-time.

Both sides showed some intent and purpose early on, but the final pass seemed to be missing for both. The hosts looked threatening from set pieces, while India looked to absorb the pressure and hit Afghanistan on the break as the home side began to see more of the ball as the half progressed.

India’s first attempt of the match came in the 27th minute after the ball broke kindly for Ashique Kuruniyan near the edge of the box. The 22-year-old managed to get his shot away off his favourite right foot, but his effort failed to test the goalkeeper as Afghanistan’s backline breathed a sigh of relief.

The Blue Tigers began to move the ball a little quicker after their first attempt and, as a result, began to create more dangerous situations in the opposition box. However, it was Afghanistan who broke the deadlock on the brink of half-time when Nazary slotted home a cutback from the right to make it 1-0 for the hosts. India looked to respond immediately through a Brandon Fernandes shot from range. His effort, though, was just wide of the target as Afghanistan took a 1-0 advantage into the break.

Igor Stimac replaced Mandar Rao Dessai with Farukh Choudhary at the start of the second period and the substitute made an instant impact as India began causing more problems for the Afghanistan defence. Within five minutes of being on the pitch, Farukh got his first shot of the match away, albeit it was off target.

Farukh’s influence continued to grow as the half developed with him producing dangerous crosses from the left side on a regular basis. The best chance of the match up until the hour mark for India, though, was created from a cross from the right in the 58th minute and went to Sunil Chhetri, who forced the goalkeeper into a good save with a header.

Afghanistan nearly doubled their lead eight minutes later when substitute Noraollah Amiri’s shot from outside the box stuck the crossbar. India responded with an Udanta Singh header that forced a corner. The subsequent corner fell invitingly at the far post for Chhetri to equalise, but India’s all-time top scorer failed to apply the finishing touch on this occasion as Afghanistan hung on to their lead.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu then kept India in the game with a brilliant diving save in the 77th minute, while Brandon went up the other end and unleashed another shot from distance that sailed just over the crossbar. Substitute Manvir Singh headed a cross from the left wide of goal seven minutes later with India looking to pile on the pressure in the closing stages of the match.

Brandon eventually managed to get an effort on target in the 87th minute, but his deflected shot was comfortably saved by the goalkeeper. In the end, he turned provider for the equaliser with a well-measured corner towards the near post that was headed into the back of the net by substitute Doungel to make it 1-1. Both teams would go on to have one more shot on goal before the final whistle, but neither side could find the winner.

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