India needed an injury-time header from substitute Seminlen Doungel to secure a point against Afghanistan in their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Dushanbe. The hosts had earlier taken the lead through Zelfagar Nazary on the stroke of half-time.
The result leaves the Blue Tigers with a lot of work to do if they are to even harbour hopes of finishing second in the group. After four matches, they have three points, one behind Afghanistan and two ahead of Bangladesh.
Igor Stimac's side dominated possession but failed to create clear-cut chances in the first half. The closest the Indians came was when Pritam Kotal put in a good cross from the right and the ball bounced dangerously in the area. However, none of the forwards could do much with it.
Despite keeping the ball well, Afghanistan were strong on the counter and looked like they had a plan to target the Indian left flank, where Ashique and Mandar both were looking to go forward at every opportunity. That left gaps behind and caused Adil Khan to be pulled out of position as he covered.
Mandar was pinned back a couple of times after the home side put him under a lot of pressure, but that did not change the way the Indians defended. Ultimately, a swift counter-attack saw David Najem get in behind the defence and his cutback was swept in beautifully by Nazary.
Stimac's men came out in the second half looking to create chances but were let down by a lack of composure at times, along with a general lack of penetration. With the Croatian coach making three attacking changes, the Blue Tigers were throwing the kitchen sink in order to get something out of the game.
Sunil Chhetri went close a couple of times after he got on the end of crosses from the right. However, his headers were saved by Ovays Azizi in goal. Udanta too tried his luck with a looping header but to no avail.
On the other side, Afghanistan went close a couple of times as Norilla Amiri hit the crossbar with a rasping shot while Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to be alert to palm away a dipping shot later on.
India's goal came late in injury time as Brandon Fernandes' corner was headed in by Doungel, who jumped higher than everyone to rescue a point.
Brandon Fernandes - 7/10
Never gave up and constantly tried to find the right pass. Also took on multiple shots but wasn't very accurate. Delivered the corner that saw Len Doungel score.
Seminlen Doungel - 7/10
The final roll of the dice from Igor Stimac was bringing Len on. He instantly brought in a positive dynamic with his running and directness. Though he was a little hasty at times, his header helped rescue the point for India.
Shouldn't be satisfied with that result. Chhetri missed a handful of chances, barely any attacking promise shown in the first half, and far too many fouls committed. Still winless in the World Cup qualifiers. Three points from four games. #AFGIND #IndianFootball pic.twitter.com/1BkcCQZjrL— Manasi Pathak (@ThatUnitedLady) November 14, 2019
Football: India managed to salvage a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan in their 4th match (2nd round) of 2022 FIFA World Cup & AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.— India_AllSports (@India_AllSports) November 14, 2019
Len Doungel, the substitute, scored equalizing goal for India in injury time.
India are winless so far in Group E & at 4th spot. pic.twitter.com/wIizQUXlWi