India faced a 1-0 defeat against Lebanon in the third-place match of the King’s Cup 2023 tournament. The showdown unfolded at the 700th Anniversary Stadium in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Both sides had promising moments. Yet, Lebanon’s Kassem El-Zein delivered a spectacular bicycle kick in the 77th minute, securing the victory.
Guided by coach Igor Stimac, India initiated a high-press strategy early in the game. Despite their efforts and a few opportunities, the Indian squad, 99th in the FIFA rankings, couldn’t deliver.
Lebanon, ranked just one place below India, gained momentum later in the first half. They established control over possession near the Indian penalty box. Lebanon, led by captain Sandesh Jhingdan and Anwar Ali, challenged the Indian defense.
The Indian team’s right-back, Ashish Rai, played a pivotal role in their offensive maneuvers in the first half. Yet, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Manvir Singh, and Anirudh Thapa couldn’t convert their chances into goals.
Lebanon dictated the game’s tempo after halftime. They created several moments while limiting India’s ability to counterattack. Lebanon’s Nader Matar came close to breaking the deadlock early in the second half, but Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a crucial save.
The relentless attacks from Lebanon bore fruit in the 77th minute. A pinpoint corner kick from Ali Al Haj found Kassem El Zein, who executed a remarkable bicycle kick to propel Lebanon into the lead.
Despite the setback, India displayed urgency in their quest for an equalizer. They came close to scoring in the match’s dying moments. However, Lallianzuala Chhangte’s cross was headed wide by Rohit Kumar as the Indian side conceded third place to Lebanon.
The game became the fourth meeting between India and Lebanon this year. In July, India secured a victory over the West Asian side in the semi-finals of the SAFF Championship, winning on penalties. In June, they triumphed 2-0 over Lebanon in the Intercontinental Cup’s final, marking India’s first win against Lebanon in 47 years. A goalless draw had also occurred during the Intercontinental Cup group stage.
The King’s Cup 2023 saw India lose a thrilling semi-final match to Iraq. India lost 5-4 in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in regulation time.
Despite the King’s Cup setback, the Indian men’s football team will not have much time to dwell on this result. Their next challenge awaits at the Asian Games 2023 later this month.