Penalty heartbreak for India after 2-2 draw against Iraq in King’s Cup Semis

Penalty heartbreak after India hold Iraq to draw in King's Cup semis

In a thrilling encounter at the 49th King’s Cup 2023, India faced heartbreak in the semi-finals as they went down to Iraq in a dramatic penalty shootout.

The match, played at the 700th Anniversary Stadium in Chiang Mai, Thailand, showcased India’s determination and grit, but ultimately, they fell short against the formidable Iraqi team.

The clash started with India displaying their resolve to make history. Naorem Mahesh Singh ignited hopes for the Indian fans when he expertly found the back of the net in the 16th minute, capitalizing on a sublime pass from Sahal Abdul Samad. It was a moment of brilliance as Naorem deceived Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hasan, slotting the ball past him at the near post.

However, Iraq responded swiftly, drawing level in the 28th minute from the penalty spot. A. Al-Hamadi calmly converted the spot-kick after Sandesh Jhingan was penalized for a handball. The Lions of Mesopotamia continued to press and came close to taking the lead, only to be thwarted by India’s vigilant goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

The second half began with a twist in favor of India. A rare mistake by Iraq’s goalkeeper Hasan gifted India the lead. Akash Mishra, playing on the right, sent in a low and powerful cross that was mishandled by Hasan, finding the back of the net. India led 2-1 and shifted their focus to defense, putting up a resolute barrier that denied Iraq much room to maneuver.

However, a second penalty for Iraq in the 80th minute breathed new life into the contest. Aymen Ghadhban earned the spot-kick after an aerial duel with Nikhil Poojary and Jhingan. Ghadhban converted, leveling the score once again. India’s defense held firm despite Iraq’s late offensive surge.

Injury time saw Iraq reduced to 10 men as Zidane Iqbal received a red card for a reckless challenge on Brandon Fernandes. But there was hardly time for India to take advantage as the match went into a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.

The shootout was a test of nerves, but it ultimately favored Iraq, who converted all their penalties to secure a spot in the final. Brandon Fernandes’ missed penalty was a rare blemish in an otherwise outstanding performance by the Indian team.

Before this heart-wrenching loss, India had been in superb form throughout the year, remaining undefeated and clinching three international trophies—the Tri-Nations Series in March, the Intercontinental Cup in Bhubaneshwar, and the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru in July. This match against Iraq showcased the Blue Tigers’ tenacity and fighting spirit as they went toe-to-toe with a formidable opponent ranked 29 places higher in the FIFA Rankings.

Although India fell short in the semi-finals, they still have a chance to claim third place in the tournament, as they are set to compete in the third-place playoff match on September 10.

Also ReadDominant India beat Nepal to secure semi-final spot

Also ReadNarayan Das returns to FC Goa for third stint with Club

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