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Group C: Vietnam 0-1 India

Kuala Lumpur: India's persistence paid off as they edged Vietnam 1-0 in Group C of the AFC U-16 Championship Malaysia 2018 at the UM Arena on Friday.

In a tightly contested affair, Vietnam started the match strongly as they fought for early possession against an Indian side who had stayed unbeaten in the qualifiers. But the Southeast Asians soon found themselves under pressure as India pushed forward.

Gurkirat Singh found space down the left and delivered a perfect cross to Vikram Partap, who timed his run perfectly as he skipped past his marker in the box but his finishing was tame as it sailed past the goalmouth in the fifth minute.

Vietnam, unfazed by India’s persistence, surged forward in the 12th minute as Dinh Thanh Trung made his way on the right and passed it square to Khuat Van Khang, who fired straight into the arms of India goalkeeper Niraj Kumar.

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Two minutes later, The Young Golden Dragons attacked the Indian defence as they committed players upfront. Nguyen The Hung made an intelligent run and picked out an unmarked Dinh but the midfielder pulled his shot wide.

India’s best chance came in the 16th minute with Partap in the thick of action as his close range effort was blocked by Vietnam custodian Nguyen Duy Dung and the striker diverted the rebound to Ricky John Shabong, who sent it way off the mark.

Vu Hong Viet’s side turned up the tempo in the 20th minute as they barraged their opponents with crosses into the box in the hope of finding a glimpse of space but India stayed calm and defended well.

India, however did not give in and in the 34th minute, Ravi Bahadur made a surging run down the left and found Partap but the striker blew his shot over the bar as the match ended goalless at halftime.

Both teams pushed hard in the second half but neither could break the deadlock as they battled for possession in midfield.

India, who looked more dangerous upfront, had the best opportunity to score in the 64th minute when Lalchhanhima Sailo sprung into the penalty area but Nguyen Duy foiled his attempt.

In the 64th minute, Vietnam found a rare chance as they broke free on a counter-attack but they could not get their passes together as Bibiano Fernandes’ side swarmed in to tidy up.

The match was heading to a stalemate but India had other ideas as Partap darted past defenders and earned a penalty after he was brought down by Dang Tuan Phong. The captain finally etched his name on the scoreboard after converting the penalty in the 86th minute as the young Blue Tigers earned their three points.

Vu Hong Viet: Vietnam head coach

“India played better than us today. They kept the ball well in the centre of the pitch, that’s why we couldn’t control the game. We conceded that late goal and it gave them the win. Congratulations to India. We will face Indonesia in our next match, they have played well in their first game and we will be ready to face them.”

Bibiano Fernandes: India head coach

“Today we went for the three points and although we missed some chances I’m happy with our game. At this stage, no team is easy and Vietnam is a very good team. We knew it will be difficult looking at the conditions but we kept going and got the desired result. Our next match is against IR Iran and although they lost the first match, it will not be easy for us. Looking at their physicality, we will analyse their match (against Indonesia) and will work on a strategy.”