An ‘experimental’ India was thrashed 0-6 by United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their second international friendly at the Zabeel Stadium in Dubai on March 29.
Striker Ali Mabkhout scored a hat-trick while Khalil Ibrahim, Fabio De Lima and Sebastian Tagliabue found the back of the net for UAE.
India head coach Igor Stimac gave game time to many new faces, making as many as eight changes to the Blue Tigers’ starting XI. He brought in Gurpreet Singh (captain for the day), Adil Khan, Anirudh Thapa, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Lalengmawia Ralte, Pritam Kotal, Liston Colaco and Mashoor Shereef and gave them the opportunity to stake a claim for upcoming matches in June.
Among those who retained their places in the XI from the 1-1 draw against Oman were Akash Mishra, Manvir Singh and Suresh Wangjam, with the likes of Sandesh Jhingan, Rowllin Borges, Bipin Singh, etc. not in action on March 29.
The UAE, ranked 74 on the FIFA rankings, managed to get an early lead against the 104th ranked India when Mabkhout latched onto a through ball from Fabio De Lima and chipped it over the goal-keeper.
India went looking for the equaliser after the goal and soon had a decent opportunity when debutant Liston Colaco – the 11th debutant in the two friendly games – earned a free-kick from a dangerous position. Anirudh Thapa attempted a move from the training ground, as he played Pritam Kotal through down the right flank, but the UAE defence averted the danger.
At the half-hour mark, Fabio De Lima cut in from the right and took a shot that the referee adjudged to have been blocked by Adil Khan’s hand. Mabkhout again stepped up and slotted it home from the penalty spot on the 32nd minute mark.
The two teams headed into the dressing rooms at half time, with the UAE leading 2-0.
Blue Tigers coach Stimac made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Yasir Mohammad in place of Anirudh Thapa while Halicharan Narzary replaced Chhangte.
The second half was a non-starter for the Blue Tigers as they failed to make any move. Commentators on the UAE local feed even went on to question the decision of holding a friendly with India which they said was playing like it was “just a practice session”.
For the UAE, Mabkhout completed his hat-trick at the hour mark, as he controlled the ball inside the box, and slotted it home. Four minutes later, Khalil Ibrahim’s first-time shot found the back of the Indian net, to make it 4-0.
Raynier Fernandes and Ishan Pandita came on as substitutes in the 58th minute in place of Liston Colaco and Lalengmawia. In the 72nd minute, Hitesh Sharma replaced Suresh Wangjam in midfield. Ashique Kuruniyan was brought on for Akash Mishra with 10 minutes to go.
Fabio Lima added a fifth, before setting up substitute Sebastian Tagliabue towards the end, and he scored his team’s sixth goal as the hosts won the match hands down.