Afghanistan opened the scoring at the stroke of half-time through Zelfagar Nazary, but super-sub Seiminlen Doungel headed in his first goal for India to equalize in the 93rd minute as the spoils were shared.
Aspirited performance from the Indian national football team helped them walk away with a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan in their FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Central Republic Stadium in Dushanbe on Thursday.
India were trailing 0-1 at the half-way mark after Zelfy Nazary put Afghanistan ahead in the 46th minute as he stormed into the box and smashed the ball past goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
India created a few chances after being pushed on the backfoot and their efforts finally paid off in stoppage time as Seiminlen Doungel headed home a pin-point cross from the corner kick that was taken by Brandon Fernandes in the third minute of added time.
India looked to take on the opposition but they could not create any clear chances, and the couple of half chances in the opening minutes failed to test the Afghan custodian.
There was a change for India after the break when Stimac substituted Mandar with Farukh Choudhary.
The visitors showed urgency and looked desperate for an equaliser. They had a chance in the 58th minute but skipper Sunil Chhetri’s header off a cross from right back Pritam Kotal was saved by Azizi. In addition, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a diving save.
Although he might be disappointed to end the match in a stalemate, Stimac’s decision to replace Kotal by Doungel paid dividends.
The goal was Doungel’s first for the national team, helping India maintain their spotless away record in the competition. The result though meant that India’s winless run in World Cup qualifying extended to six matches.
“It is my first goal for India, so I am very happy personally. It was a difficult game for us, the weather, the pitch and everything, but we played as well as possible,” Doungel said after the match.
India are currently placed fourth in Group E just above Bangladesh with 3 points from 4 matches which includes 1 loss and 3 draws. In their last encounter at home to Bangladesh, it was Adil Khan who scored the equalizer in Kolkata to earn the Blue Tigers a point.
Although India’s chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup are diminishing with every match, they still have a mathematical opportunity of making it to the main draw.