New Delhi: A spirited India rallied with an injury time goal to hold formidable United Arab Emirates 2-2 but it proved too little too late as they bowed out of the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers under unplayable conditions at Ambedkar Stadium on Thursday.
UAE, who had won the first leg 3-0 at home, made it to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers on 5-2 aggregate.
Defender Gouramangi Singh found the equaliser in the 92nd minute from a goalmouth melee after the home side were trailing 1-2 in the second round match of the World Cup qualifiers played in a virtual muddy and watery field.
Mohamed Al Shehhi and captain Ali Al Wehabi scored for UAE in the 39th and 71st minutes before Jeje Lalpekhlua pulled one back for India in the 74th minute.
For India, who are 44 places below UAE in FIFA rankings at 153rd, it could be considered a good result after their 0-3 loss in the first leg at Al Ain on July 23 though the playing conditions today were far from being conducive for top-class encounter.
With heavy rain lashing the Ambedkar Stadium pitch since half an hour before the start of the match and throughout the game, ground passing was impossible as the ball stopped at the water puddles all over the place.
Understandably, both the sides had to employ the tactics of kicking the ball upfront and trying to keep the ball at opposition defence who, in turn, would look for first time clearance.
Cheered by a near-capacity crowd, who braved rain, the Indians showed better understanding and anticipation at the their home ground. They dominated most part of the first half but conceded a goal towards the close of the opening session.
The home side made attacks mostly from the right flank with Steven Dias doing most of the running and the strike duo of Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua threatening the UAE citadel several times.
India had the first look at the opposition goal in the seventh but Gouramangi`s effort went wide.
Next minute, India had the best chance of the first session with striker Jeje sending a clear ball to Dias inside the UAE box but the latter`s stinging right footer was blocked by rival goalkeeper Ali Khasheif.
Custodian Karanjit Singh, however, saved India from conceding a goal in the 16th minute by making a fine acrobatic save, palming away a Ahmed Khalil free kick diving high to his left.
India got a free kick in the 23rd minute but Dias` effort from near the top of the UAE box sailed inches above the bar.
But just when it looked like the two sides will go into the breather in clean slate, UAE scored from a counter attack in the 39th minute with the home team defenders guilty of giving space to dangerous striker Ahmed Khalil.
Khalil got past right back Samir Naik, who was guilty of a mistimed tackle, and the UAE striker got the space to sneak into the Indian defence quickly before sending a cross from near the baseline for Mohammed Al Shehhi to just nod home.
After the change of ends, India looked to continue its slight domination as in the 62nd minute, Dias failed to reach a pass from Jeje for a UAE defender to clear it for a corner.
India`s remote chances of advancing to the next round was virtually over after conceding the first goal but UAE dug the final nail in the home team`s coffin when captain Ali Al Wehabi scored in the 71st minute with a scorching right-footer from the top of the box.
India, however, pulled one back three minutes later through Jeje, who neatly headed home from a cross by Lalrindika Ralte, who came in for Dias in the 66th minute.
India coach Armando Colaco brought in Jewel Raja for Clifford Miranda towards the end of the match but that move failed to yield result before Gourmangi came up with the equaliser in the second of the three-minute injury time.
By then, India had gone for all-out attack, pressing for an equaliser and Gouramangi shot home from a goal-mouth melee for the home fans to go berserk.