Kathmandu, Sept (PTI): India were held to a goalless draw by defending Asian champions Iraq in the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers in Kathmandu on Sunday. Courtesy the result, an unbeaten India finished their engagements on five points from three matches and now wait for engagements in other groups to finish across other venues to find out if they have made it to the AFC U-16 Finals by virtue of being the best second-placed team across 10 groups.
Meanwhile, Iraq who finished their engagements on seven points from three matches have already booked a ticket to the AFC U-16 Finals slated to be held next year. Knowing that only a victory would enable them a ticket to the AFC U-16 Finals, India started on a positive note and should have surged into the lead as early as the sixth minute itself but the swift Bekey, despite sneaking in from the flanks, could not get the power behind his shot and the Iraqi goalkeeper managed to save it. The Indians played with more purpose even as the Iraqis relied on their physical superiority to seize the possession in the midfield. In the 42nd minute, Vikram made another robust move but Ricky shot straight to the rival goalkeeper as both teams headed to the interval locked goalless. Following the restart, Bekey got perhaps the easiest chance of the match when at the hour mark, he had the rival goalkeeper at his mercy from hand-shaking distance. But he couldn’t finish it off. Two minutes later, Ravi flashed another cross from the left flank but it bounced out. Coach Bibiano Fernandes introduced Harpreet in the 76th minute. Six minutes later Harpreet, with a solo effort, barged in but the goalkeeper wasn’t to be beaten. India went all out thereafter but Iraq were more content to stabilise their defence as they increased numbers at the back.