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Second penalty was questionable: Gurpreet

Football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. File

Football team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. File
| Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Indian football team captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was critical of the second penalty awarded to Iraq after his side’s heartbreaking 4-5 defeat in shootout in the King’s Cup semifinal here.

The Indians conceded a late goal off a debatable penalty to on Thursday miss out on their first-ever victory over Iraq.

The Blue Tigers were leading 2-1 till the 79th minute when the referee awarded a soft penalty to Iraq after their striker Ghadhban was squeezed by two defenders inside the box during a tussle to get on to a high cross.

It did not look like a definite penalty, but Ghadhban himself stepped up to take the kick from the spot and make it 2-2, taking the game to the penalty shootout.

Sandhu told the AIFF, “Obviously, it’s a hard result to digest. I think we could’ve won the game. Unfortunately, the second penalty which was awarded was questionable.” However, he expressed his satisfaction with the overall performance of the team despite the absence of veteran striker Sunil Chhetri.

“But again, we did much, much better than what I think people would have thought. And we just need to believe in ourselves. We have to be a bit more patient and positive, which we were.

“We need to be humble and also make sure that we don’t give away chances the way we did. Unfortunately, Iraq got their chances to come back and win the game,” he added.

“We just need to make sure if we want to be one of those big teams, we don’t give away opportunities even if it looks like it’s something out of our control.

“We need to make sure that we don’t give any chances whatsoever to other teams if we want to be in those high numbers in Asia or in the world.

“We need to build on this performance because we have another game coming up. We need to make sure that we rest well, eat well, and get ready for that.” The failure ended India’s unbeaten streak of 12 games. However, Sandhu expressed his confidence in his team and and said the players need to believe in themselves.

“Most of the boys in this bunch have played together for a long time. They are maturing at the right age, peaking at the right time.

“The sky’s the limit for us. We just need to believe in ourselves as a team.” “We are working day in and day out to make sure that we, as a team, keep on pushing our limits, break the barriers and move forward in Asia because that’s where we want to be,” he signed off.

India will take on Lebanon in the bronze-medal playoff, which will be followed by the title clash between Iraq and Thailand on Sunday.

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