TASHKENT (UZBEKISTAN): The India U-16 boys’ Team marched on to yet another win, this time, defeating Central Asian side Turkmenistan in their opening match of the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers, Group B, on Wednesday, September 18.
Sridarth was the top performer, scoring a brace – while Shubho Paul was also not too far behind, scoring a first-half goal, and providing an assist for Taison Singh in the second half. Substitute Himanshu Jangra scored the remaining goal in the second half.
Playing at the Transport Institute Stadium, home to the reserve side of reigning Uzbekistan Super League champions Lokomotiv Tashkent, India looked to dominate their opponents from the first half itself.
While the ball seesawed up and down the pitch in the opening exchanges, India soon gained control of the match.
Both sides had a go at each other in the opening exchanges. While the likes of Anish Mazumder and Singson held off the Turkmen attack, the combination of Pritam and Taison down the right flank, looked dangerous for India.
India had their first real chance when Sridarth was advanced inside the box, crossed it in for Shubho, who scuffed his header over the bar from inside the six-yard box.
Just ahead of the half-hour mark, however, the Indians took the early lead through winger Shubho. Sridarth was played through into the Turkmen box from the right, as he made his way through, sold a dummy, and pulled the trigger. While his shot was initially saved, Shubho was on hand to turn in the rebound.
Turkmenistan attempted to mount a comeback for large parts of the first half but the Indian midfield duo of Yoihenba and Sibajit maintained solidity in the middle of the park.
Just a few minutes ahead of the half-time break, Sridarth doubled the lead. Taison forced himself into the area, played a cutback, which was duly turned in by Sridarth, from inside the six-yard box.
They may have gone into the break with a two-goal lead, but Bibiano’s boys picked up right where they left off. A few minutes into the restart, Taison Singh added the third, as he smashed in a Shubho Paul cross from just outside the far post.
It was after this goal, that India gaffer Bibiano Fernandes brought on striker Himanshu Jangra in place of Taison, pushing Sridarth out to the wing, and providing some physicality upfront.
The physical striker had an immediate effect as he was played through into the box by Maheson and he went on to finish with great aplomb.
Sridarth finished off the scoring late in injury time, as he plonked it over the keeper to make it five.
India U-16 (Starting XI): Aman Kumar Sahani (GK), Pritam Meetei, Singson, Anish Mazumder, Amandeep, Sibajit Singh, Shubho Paul, Sridarth, Maheson Singh, Taison Singh, Yoihenba Meitei