AFC U-17 Asian Cup qualifiers | India open campaign with thumping 5-0 win over Maldives
At the Prince Saud Bin Jalawi Stadium in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, the Indian men's football team defeated Maldives 5-0 to begin its AFC Under-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers. India's goals came from the captain Vanlalpeka Guite, Lalhmingchhuanga Fanai, Aman, Boby Singh, and Phoenix Oinam.
Huzafah and Boby organised strikes along the left flank as India took the initiative. In the ninth minute, a Vanlalpeka Guite corner from the left was nearly turned in by Faizan, giving the Blue Colts the lead. They didn't take long to score their opening goal, though, as captain Guite raced in to finish off a right-side low cross.
When Fanai attempted a long-range shot in the 24th minute, the ball took a deflection and flew past the Maldives goalkeeper, doubling the advantage. The two goals placed India well in control, and a self-assured Guite directed the Blue Colts' attacks, frequently dropping to the middle to connect with the midfielders and wingers.
When the India captain grabbed control of a free kick near the Maldives penalty area, he almost made it three. Guite had the goalkeeper fully beat from about 20 yards out, but the ball clanged off the post. India had a two-goal advantage at the interval.
Following the break, head coach Bibiano Fernandes made three substitutions, replacing Guite, Malemngamba Thokchom, and Manjit Singh Dhami with Gurnaj Singh, Phoenix Oinam, and Chandan Yadav, respectively.
It took India almost 15 minutes to score again despite being entirely in control and enjoying extended periods of possession. Just one minute before the hour mark, India's striker Aman completed off a complex team play to give his team a three-goal lead.
Huzafah Ahmad Dar was fouled inside the penalty area eight minutes later, and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. In order to make it four, Boby Singh went up to the plate. Phoenix Oinam added the winning touch a few minutes later with a shot from around 25 yards out that found the bottom corner of the net.
As time passed, Aman nearly scored India's sixth goal, but his effort from outside the area hit the crossbar and was out of bounds. India is currently third in Group D. Ten group winners and the six best runner-up teams will advance to the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 when all of the group matches are completed.
On Wednesday, India will play Kuwait in the AFC U-17 Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers. Saudi Arabia and Myanmar, both two-time winners, are the other two teams in Group D.