Seiminlen Doungel scored in stoppage time to help India hold Afghanistan 1-1 and rescue a point in their Group E FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier at Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Thursday.
The result meant that India, coached by Croatian Igor Stimac, remained winless in their qualifying campaign after four matches with three draws and one defeat. India now has three points from four matches – this being their third draw in a row.
In their previous encounter at home to Bangladesh, it was Adil Khan who scored the equaliser in front of a packed house in Kolkata to save the team the blushes after they were behind against their much lower ranked rivals.
India failed to create clear-cut chances against a resilient Afghan backline as the talismanic Sunil Chhetri missed an open chance in the second half to further add to their woes.
Afghanistan scored through Zelfagar Nazary at the stroke of halftime before substitute Doungel headed in his first goal for India to equalise in the 93rd minute as the spoils were shared.
David Najem did well to get behind India’s defence and set up Nazary who got past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in India’s goal and put his team ahead.
The best chance for India came in the 27th minute when Sahal Abdul Samad and Ashique Kuruniyan teamed up to force an error at the edge of the Afghanistan penalty area, with the latter’s shot just going off target.
Seven minutes later, Ashique looked to create another opportunity as he looked dangerous down the left flank. He went past two defenders to enter the penalty area but was denied at the last moment by a third, who cleared the ball.
Afghanistan came up with a shot on target from distance in the 39th minute through Faysal Shayesteh, which was turned around the post by a diving Gurpreet. It looked as if both teams would enter the dressing room with the score line intact, but Afghanistan broke the deadlock through Nazary just at the stroke of half time.
India created the last chance before the break through Brandon Fernandes, who came up with a rasping drive from long range which went just wide of the goal.
After some pressing play in the second half, India finally drew level deep into the stoppage time with Doungel leaping higher than the rest to head home a Brandon Fernandes corner, much to the relief of the Indian bench.