AFC Asian Cup: India's defence has thrown up a lot of positives despite UAE debacle

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Though a couple of momentary lapses at the back undid India against UAE, the defending at large has been commendable....

Going into Thursday's night's Asian Cup match against UAE, India's first choice defenders had an enviable record. They had not conceded a goal in open play in the five games Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika and Subhasish Bose started together.

That run would be broken against UAE as India fell to a 0-2 defeat. The result and the scoreline felt extremely harsh on the Blue Tigers who had UAE on the ropes plenty of times during the match.

In the first half, India were pretty much the top dogs and had control of the match, thanks to their incessant pressing in the middle and pace down the wings. UAE struggled to build moves and in the event they managed to foray into the Indian box, found themselves short of answers.

India's defence kept their shape admirably and were quick to close down any spaces.

There was no joy down the wings as well for the home team, with Pritam Kotal physically asserting himself over Khamis Esmail who found it hard to utlisie his pace to trouble the ATK right-back.

Subhasish Bose was also solid against Ismaeel Al Hamadi. Whatever little crosses that came in were dealt with easily. As a result, UAE were forced to resort to hopeful long balls and shots from range which rarely troubled Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

India vs UAE

It was admirable from India and refreshing to see the team play without an iota of self-doubt or fear against a team which is technically and physically superior and is ranked eighth in Asia.

That is not to say India's defence was perfect. It was almost ironical that both UAE's goals came from long balls and stemmed from momentary defensive lapses. Anas misread the bounce and trajectory of a long ball for the first goal, allowing Ali Mabkhout to play in Khalfan Mubarak. Even after Anas' error, the chance should have been snuffed out as the defenders got back in time to outnumber Mubarak inside the box.

But the fact that the UAE forward got the shot away is disappointing. Kotal failed to keep track of Mabkhout's run late on for the second goal and failed to farm him towards an acute angle afterwards.

These are areas that Constantine should work on before the Bahrain tie.

But on a whole, this Indian team has defended stoutly while not compromising in attack. The presence of the hardworking Pronay Halder who hustles opposition midfielders has also helped.

It is a refreshing approach to say the least - something that only a confident team can pull off. This bunch of players are developing a reputation around Asia. They've made teams sit up and take note with the win over Thailand and the performance against UAE further cemented that perception.

India are not easy prey to Asian powerhouses anymore. They have belief, they have the skill and discipline to pose a challenge to superiror teams.

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