Abu Dhabi: India left their scoring boots and luck behind while hosts United Arab Emirates found both after a subdued opener to record a 2-0 win in the AFC Asian Cup at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabhi.
Khalfan Mubarak (41′) and Ali Ahmed Mabkhout (88′) scored for the home team, entering the game in some desperation after a 1-1 stalemate with Bahrain in the tournament opener.
UAE moved top of the table in Group A with four points from two matches while second-placed India still remained in the hunt for a knockout berth with three points from two outings.
India had drubbed Thailand 4-1 in their opening encounter Sunday but the Thais got their campaign back on a track with a 1-0 win over Bahrain in the evening fixture.
India made a positive start in both the halves and created many chances, but paid dearly for lacking the finishing touch.
The Blue Tigers missed three big chances in the first half and while they created opportunities after the break too, India were denied on two occasions by the framework.
On expected lines, the United Arab Emirates enjoyed possession initially but, to the surprise of many, India had more shots at goal and dominated proceedings by keeping the opposition defence busy.
Sandesh Jhingan’s free header off a corner by Anirudh Thapa, which was won by Pritam Kotal, went off target. India could have been 1-0 up as early as the seventh minute at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.
Then, unmarked at the far post, Sunil Chhetri’s header after Thapa squared it for the second highest active goal-scorer in international football, was brilliantly saved by UAE custodian Khalid Eisa.
If those misses in the eighth and 23rd minute gave India the belief that they will be able to fight their fancied opponents, in coach Stephen Constantine’s words, toe-to-toe, they also may have made the Blue Tigers a bit restless.
And UAE, positioned 18 places above the 97th ranked India in the FIFA chart, used that to their advantage when Mubarak charged forward and latched on to a ball by Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, who ran in from the right.
It was not that the Indian defence was in disarray but they would have done well to clear the ball at first instance. Thapa, the team’s youngest member at 20, could not get there in time while Anas Edathodika and Jhingan also could not come in the way of Mubarak, who scored his first international goal.
I-League clubs need not worry about future: AIFF chief
Mumbai: The All India Football Federation (AIFF) chief Praful Patel hinted that there could be a merger of the I-League and the Indian Super League following a three-year transition period.
“AFC (Asian Football Confederation) won’t accept a closed league for long. It is the reason why I have proposed a three-year status quo for both leagues to run simultaneously despite AFC not willing to allow it,” Patel told Times of India.
“I would request the I-League clubs to strengthen themselves financially and otherwise in this period. So when the merging and integration happens according to AFC regulations, they would be in a better position. In three years, I-League will be in a position to thrive and be in a good shape with televised matches. Right now the I-League clubs needn’t worry about their future. Ideal state would be when a second division club plays in ISL.”
Last week, the AIFF threw its weight behind a popular franchise-based league by calling on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to award its champions a slot in the continent’s elite club competition.
Currently, the winners of the traditional I-League are awarded the AFC Champions League slot, while the champions of the upstart Indian Super League (ISL) gain entry to the secondary AFC Cup competition.
Patel said he is “fighting” to give I-League clubs a similar platform as the ISL.
“The AIFF has proposed to show all I-League matches in high definition like ISL with proper timings,” he said. “Half of the production cost would be borne by marketing partners [IMG-Reliance/FSDL] while the rest will be equally divided by AIFF and clubs.”
The AIFF had said last week that its backing of ISL for an AFC spot was based on the Master Rights Agreement, owned by Reliance, it signed in 2010 with its commercial partners Football Sports Development Limited.
It said in a statement “… in the last five years the entire Indian National squad are mostly being signed/playing for the … Indian Super League clubs.
“TV viewership and in-stadia audience having grown far more substantially vis a vis the … I-League,” it added.
Last Monday six I-League clubs wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up an inquiry commission to “probe the AIFF’s functioning’’ fearing that the league could be demoted to the second tier.
No one lost the final, says Williamson
London: “No one lost the final,” New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson said on Tuesday as his team tried coming to terms with the gut-wrenching defeat against England in the World Cup’s greatest summit clash.
Cricketers, current and former, shared New Zealand’s pain on losing the title on boundary count with many of them asking for a “serious look” into the rule, slammed as “absurd”.
“At the end of the day nothing separated us, no one lost the final, but there was a crowned winner and there it is,” Williamson told Newstalk ZB.
Widely praised for the grace with which he and his side accepted the defeat, Williamson said they had signed up to the rules that governed the tournament.
New Zealand lost to England at the Lord’s due to inferior boundary count (16 in 50 overs to hosts’ 24) after both the regulation 50 overs and the Super Over ended in ties.
“I suppose you never thought you would have to ask that question and I never thought I would have to answer it (smiling),” was Williamson’s first reaction when asked about the rule.
“While the emotions are raw, it is pretty hard to swallow when two teams have worked really, really hard to get to this moment in time.
“When sort of two attempts to separate them with a winner and a loser it still doesn’t perhaps sort of shine with one side coming through, you know,” Williamson, one of the finest gentleman playing the sport, said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern praised the Black Caps for putting their all on the line and then accepting the gut-wrenching defeat with grace.
“That was undeniably an incredible game. I think as a nation we all aged a year in that super over. Congratulations to England. And to the Black Caps, I feel nothing but pride. What a team,” wrote Ardern on Instagram.
Opting to bat, New Zealand had put up a modest 241 for eight. In reply, England ended at the same score leading to the one-over eliminator.
In the Super Over, England batted first and the duo of Ben Stokes, who kept the hosts in the game with a brilliant 84 off 98 balls, and Jos Buttler made 15.
New Zealand also ended at the same score but for the loss of one wicket, paving the way for an English victory on boundary count.
British PM hosts World Cup champs
London: British Prime Minister Theresa May hosted the World Cup-winning England cricket team in the garden of her Downing Street residence, describing their win as “one of the great sporting spectacles of our time”.
England ended their 44-year wait for a first 50 overs world title by beating New Zealand in a nailbiting final Super Over on Sunday.
England’s Eoin Morgan and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May with the trophy as they pose with the team outside number 10
May, a keen cricket fan, was at the match and, after the win, posted a video clip on Twitter of herself dancing.
The prime minister, who is due to stand down next week, greeted the players in front of her home and posed for pictures with the team and the trophy.
Members of the England Cricket Team including Liam Plunkett (2nd from left), Jason Roy (extreme right), Moeen Ali (2nd from right), Jos Buttler (3rd from right) share a laugh with Prime Minister Theresa May during a reception at 10 Downing Street on Monday
“When the odds were against you in the biggest game of your lives, you simply and stubbornly refused to lose. It is that determination, that character, that has made you world champions. But, more than that, you have made history,” May told the players during the drinks reception, according to remarks released by her office.
“You have helped the nation fall in love with cricket once again,” she said, adding that the match was “a final for the ages”.
England’s Eoin Morgan and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May lift the trophy as they pose with the team outside number 10
“The final was not just cricket at its best but sport at its best — courage, character, sportsmanship, drama, incredible skill and even the odd slice of luck — all combining to create a real thriller, one of the great sporting spectacles of our time,” she added.
May added, “It was a fitting end to what has been a great tournament — and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in once again making our country a sporting showcase for the world.”
Since being unceremoniously dumped out of the 2015 World Cup in Australia, the England side have reinvented themselves as one-day cricket specialists and headed into the World Cup as overwhelming favourites.
The match, which England won by the thinnest of margins after a tie-break Super Over, was watched by more than 8 million people in Britain.
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