After a tumultuous week, the Indian men’s national team finally traveled to China for the 2023 Asian Games. Their initial challenge came against the host nation, which presented a significant obstacle.
The early stages of the game proved difficult for the Blue Tigers, with China scoring the opening goal inside ten minutes. However, India gradually found their footing and managed to level the score just before halftime, courtesy of a remarkable strike by Rahul KP.
Abdul Rabeeh, who played out of position as a right-back, showcased his ability with a well-executed lofted pass along the flanks. Rahul KP, utilizing his pace, capitalized on the opportunity, leaving the left-back behind and surprising the goalkeeper with a powerful shot from an improbable angle.
You can watch the goal below:
This goal not only marked India’s first in the 2023 Asian Games but also instilled a sense of optimism among the supporters.
Earlier in the half, China took the lead from a set-piece situation and were awarded a penalty midway through. However, Gurmeet Singh rose to the occasion, denying China’s captain Chenjie Zhu, keeping his team in the game.
Despite the hosts’ domination in terms of possession and territory, India displayed resolute defense and deservedly secured the equalizer during a strong spell towards the end of the half.
India will look to restrict mistakes and take home a positive result
The circumstances leading up to the game were unfavorable for India, as they had no prior training sessions. Additionally, the squad featured several debutants and inexperienced players, which added to the challenge faced by coach Stimac.
India started without any conventional full-backs, with Sumit Rathi and Abdul Rabeeh – both debutants – playing on the flanks. China knew its weakness and consistently capitalized on India’s defensive vulnerabilities.
The Blue Tigers still looked vulnerable at the back but Gurmeet Singh was superb in the first half, making several saves. As the first half grew, the attackers seemed to link up better and the goal was a result of their improved showing.