Captain Suresh Singh Wangjam struck in the injury time to help India come from behind and hold Saudi Arabia to a 3-3 draw in a Group A match of the AFC U-16 football championships, here on Sunday.
India enjoyed a 2-1 lead in the first half through strikes from Aniket Anil Jadhav (5th minute) and Aman Chetri (23rd). Saudi Arabia scored through Aldhuwayhi Abdulaziz in the 34th minute before substiute Albrikan Feras Tariq N found the net twice in quick succession in the 82nd and 83rd to put his team up. But the home team did not loose heart and tried their best to find the equaliser and was awarded a penalty in the injury time which Suresh Singh Wangjam scored to split points.
There was more drama before the end of the final whistle as Saudi Arabia keeper Abdulaziz Almalki was red carded for abusing the referee. Both the teams opened their account from Sunday’s draw and kept their chances alive for a place in the next round. Saudi Arabia play UAE on September 21 while India face Iran the same day. Both the teams played attacking game as they played quick shorts passes and made inroads into each other’s citadel. India, who looked more dominating in the first half, kept probing from the left and met early success in the fifth minute. The goal acted as a tonic and the home team mounted pressure and once again found the net in a similar fashion in the 23rd minute.
Saudi Arabia did not loose heart as the crawl back slowly and mounted pressure from the flanks and succeeded in reducing the margin in the 34th minute. Two-time champions Saudi Arabia applied tremendous pressure in the last ten minutes before the break to find the equaliser and won a penalty but Mali’s kick was saved by the Indian goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moiranghtem. The home team made a counter attack and was awarded a penalty which Suresh Wangjam scored to the joy of the fans.