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Group C - Matchday Two: India 0-0 IR Iran

Kuala Lumpur: India and Islamic Republic of Iran played to a 0-0 draw in their 2018 AFC U-16 Championship Group C tie at the National Stadium on Monday.

IR Iran, who lost their opening match against Indonesia, made three changes to their starting lineup - bringing in Hossein Shaverdi, Hossein Hajizadehkhorasani and Mirreza Eslamtalab and they were more compact in midfield and organised at the back.

IR Iran's Amir Jafari sent in an inviting cross into the box in the fifth minute but it was too high for Yasin Salmani’s reach as India goalkeeper Niraj Kumar collected the ball with ease.

India battled hard for possession but were unable to get a foothold of the match as IR Iran closed the door on their opponents as they approached the danger zone.

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IR Iran looked dangerous moving forward and soon found the spaces between the Indian defence as Salmani brought the best out of Kumar in the 15th minute when he fired a curling effort from top of the box.

The Central Asians’ best chance came in the 20th minute when Salmani connected beautifully off a corner but his header was denied by the post, and Amir Shabani sent the rebound straight into the arms of Kumar.

India played in patches as their free flowing football, which was evident in their 1-0 win over Vietnam on Friday eluded them.

But the young Blue Tigers tried to penetrate the Iranian goal in the 23rd minute when Shabas Ahammed Moothedath sent a dangerous delivery into the path of the lurking strikers but IR Iran goalkeeper Amirhossein Nikpour rose the highest and punched it to safety.

IR Iran came close to scoring again in the 30th minute following Amir Jafari’s set-piece from the top of the area but Kumar was on top of his game as he saved Shaverdi’s header as the score remained goalless at half-time.

IR Iran continued to press Bibiano Fernandes’ side in the second half showing their attacking flair with India sitting deep in their own half as the goals eluded them.

Most of the action was in India’s half but Kumar was unfazed by the pressure as he calmly dealt with Mohammad Amin Soustali’s header in the 70th minute following Amirhossein Azizi’s delivery from the right.

IR Iran seemed to have been given a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty in the 74th minute when Aria Barzegar was brought down by Bikash Yumnam. But Kumar rose to the occasion and saved Alireza Bavieh’s spotkick.

India almost found the net in stoppage time when Lalchhanhime Sailo broke free in the middle but he fired his effort just wide as the match ended goalless.

In their final group tie, India will take on Indonesia, while the former champions face Vietnam.

Bibiano Fernandes: India head coach

"We knew it will be difficult playing against Iran as we saw them playing against Indonesia and even though they lost we knew it would be tough. We're happy with the one point. I feel my team is getting better in terms of playing together and creating more chances at the end especially, and I hope we can continue to improve."

Abbas Chamanian: IR Iran head coach

"India did not play the beautiful game. If we scored the first goal early, things would have been different. We could have scored two goals and show the beautiful football to people. We lost the chance to earn three points but we will be prepared for the next game."

Photos: AFC

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