Incheon: The Indian men's football team suffered a humiliating 0-5 thrashing at the hands of United Arab Emirates in its Asian Games campaign opener and placed itself in a difficult position to advance to the next round of the tournament, here today.
Be it in defending or attacking, the Indians were outclassed by a much superior side in all departments of the game by last edition's silver medallist.
The series of mispasses, the ineffectiveness on the wings and the sluggish midfield losing almost every battle for the ball made matters tough for Wim Koevermans' boys as a ruthless UAE took control of the game from the beginning of the Group G match at Hwaseong Sports Complex Main Stadium.
The defeat meant that the Indians could fly back home early from the Games as they play another strong team in Jordan on September 22 in their second and final group match.
India tried to fight back. Captain Sunil Chhetri had a penalty appeal turned down after he was hacked down inside the area, while right back Pritam Kotal tried his luck from 35 yards with a stinging effort which the UAE keeper somehow clung on to.
Changing over, any slim hope of a comeback went up in smoke when four minutes into the hour mark, UAE number 10 completed his hat-trick. Alkatheeri slid in to guide the ball in between Indian keeper Amrinder Singh's legs after a good pass from the right channel once again found him at the right place.
Koevermans ringed in a change with Shillong Lajong's Seminlen Doungel replacing ineffective Dempo man Mandar Rao Desai in the 71st minute. The former East Bengal forward almost made an immediate impact with an angular effort that flew inches over the frame.
Moments later, Chhetri got to the end of a delectable ball from the defence. But the Indian captain's weak shot gave the advancing keeper no problems whatsoever.
UAE got their fifth goal eight minutes from regulation time with Jhingan scored an own goal while trying to clear an Al Ahbabi shot.
A loss against Jordan will knock India out of the football competition in the group stage itself as only two teams will advance to the pre-quarterfinals.
UAE skipper Saeed Alkatheeri notched up a hat-trick (13th, 15th and 64th minutes), which included two headers with the Indian defenders looking helplessly. Al Ahbabi netted one (19th) while Indian defender Sandesh Jhingan scored an own goal (82nd).
The dominance of UAE was such that the match was as good as over within 19 minutes as the Gulf country scored three goals without reply by that time.
All the goals were conceded from counter attacks with the India back four of Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhinghan, Joyner Lourenco and Narayan Das lacking cohesion.
It all started when Alkatheeri stooped low to his left and tucked in a cross from the right. Two minutes on, the UAE captain was at it again this time diving acrobatically to meet a cross from the same area.
It was 3-0 by the 19th minute when Al Ahbabi converted from close range. Two more were added after that.