Tashkent: India U-23 lost 2-0 to Tajikistan here at the Pakhtakor Stadium on Sunday as the Blue Tigers got knocked out of the race to qualify to the finals of the tournament which is to be held in Thailand in 2020.
Daler Yodgorov's 30th minute strike and Solehov's 85th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two sides as India succumbed to their second defeat of the qualifying campaign, ending without a point out of a maximum six. It was the third straight defeat overall for this batch of India U-23 side.
Thanks to some calm goalkeeping by Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, the Indian defence managed to keep opponents barrage of attacks in the early minutes of the match at bay. The custodian denied an early lead to Tajikistan courtesy of a fine save at the 10th minute of the match.
India had a wonderful chance to get a lead in the 12th minute of the match when Komal Thatal's free-kick found Sarthak Golui but the FC Pune City-midfielder failed to keep the header on target, leaving the Tajik goalkeeper to scramble to clear his lines as he saw an onrushing Anwar Ali in pursuit of the rebound.
India soon started to gain its feet in the game, and in the 27th minute of the match Rahim Ali found Komal Thatal's as the latter just failed to keep his shot on target. However, Daler found the back of the net in the 30th minute to break India's building momentum.
India upped the ante just before the halftime, trying to find the equalizer as Rahim Ali's cross to Anirudh Thapa resulted in a shot by the latter which, however was blocked by the Tajik custodian. In the second half, India kept on attacking in search of equalizer. Rahim Ali managed to control the ball in the box in the 48th minute and passed the ball to onrushing Sahal Abdul Samad but the latter's shot from outside the box went wide.
India's attack restricted Tajikistan in their own half. In the 60th minute Sarthak Golui headed a freekick from Vinit Rai just wide off target. Tajikistan remained committed in their defence. However India's hope came to an end with Tajikistan finding the second of the match as they snatched the ball in the final third of Indian defence and Solehov struck the ball into the back of the net.