India scored from an own goal by Afghanistan goalkeeper as they ended their World Cup Qualifiers campaign with a 1-1 draw to book a berth in the next qualifying round of the Asian Cup in Doha on Tuesday.
A howler by Afghanistan custodian Ovays Azizi handed India a 1-0 lead in the 75th minute but Hossein Zamani equalised in the 81st minute in a match of few chances.
The two sides had also played out a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in Dushanbe in 2019.
It was an open and fast-paced game with the Afghans playing a more physical game in a match strewn with fouls and referee Ali Reda failing to discipline the players.
Both sides were almost equal in ball possession and India had 10 shots on target as against seven from Afghanistan. But the Afghans committed 16 fouls as against nine by the Indians. Three Afghan players were shown yellow cards as against one of India.
With seven points from eight matches, India finished third in Group E behind toppers Qatar and Oman, and ahead of Afghanistan (4th in group with six points from eight matches).
Group E as it stands
India under Igor Stimac ended the World Cup qualifying campaign with one win, four draws and three losses. Besides the win against Bangladesh in their previous match, the first leg 0-0 draw against Asian champions Qatar here in 2019 was the highlight of the campaign.
India head coach Igor Stimac made two changes to the side that started for the Blue Tigers against Bangladesh in the previous game, with Bipin Singh and Udanta Singh making way for Rahul Bheke and Ashique Kuruniyan.
India dominated the early period with captain Sunil Chhetri having a go at the opposition goal in the 10th minute off a pass from Glan Martins but his left-footed shot from a difficult angle was collected by the Afghan goalie.
The Afghans grew in confidence and were the better side in the later part of the first half and they had a few shots on target but none gave any difficulties to Indian custodian Gurpreet Singh.
Five minutes before the breather, Ashique was on the clear on the top left edge of the box but his low cross failed to reach Chhetri with an Afghan defender clearing it.
Chhetri, who had scored twice against Bangladesh, could not repeat that performance and he was substituted in the 69th minute. Midfield livewire Brandon Fernandes was also replaced in the 62nd minute.
The Afghans looked better early in the second session but India took the lead in the 75th minute.
Kuruniyan sent a high cross from the left which Suresh Wangjam tried to reach for. Afghan goalkeeper Azizi rose for what should have been an easy collection but the ball dropped down his hands and slipped in between his legs into the empty goal.
But, the joy of the Indians was shortlived as Zamani curled past Gurpreet after the Afghan striker won the ball from two Indian defenders who could have done better.
Manvir had a chance late in the second half, when he got his head onto a ball whipped in from the left by Subhasish, but his header went over the crossbar. Both the sides had a few last exchanges in added time, but the clock soon ran down, as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
(With PTI inputs)
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