Team India got off to an abysmal start in their 19th Asian Games campaign as the men’s football team was subjected to a 1-5 surrender against a strong China side in their opening encounter. Rahul KP was the lone goal-scorer for India when he helped the Men in Blue equalise in the stoppage time after the first half, however, China owing to Tao Qianglong’s brace in the second half didn’t give even a sniff to the Indian side.
With Sunil Chhetri and the late entrant Sandesh Jhingan being the only two senior players, the Indian team was definitely short on experience and China reminded them of that fact as Gao Tianyi helped the hosts take a lead in the 17th minute by guiding a header to the goal past Gurmeet with rather ease.
The possession remained with China for most of the first half but Rahul KP and Abdul Rabeeh had started to show glimpses that they were close to scoring and a goal finally came at the end of the first half. Rahul equalised for India with an outstanding solo shot from a distance.
But it seemed like that India went missing after the first half. Dai Weijun was quick to get China in the lead with a goal in the left corner in the 51st minute. Tao’s two goals then, in the 72nd and 75th minute sealed the deal for China as India was completely on the backfoot. If anything was left, Hao Fang made it five for China as the Men in Red won the game fair and square while making a statement.
India still have a chance to storm back into the competition with two games still to go. The top two teams from each of the six groups and four best third-place teams will make it to the Round of 16 that begins on September 27. There is still time but the coach Igor Stimac and captain Sunil Chhetri have a lot of work to be done as it isn’t easy to come back from losses like this and it will need humongous teamwork to get this Indian team going once again.