Chiang Mai (Thailand), Sep 8 (PTI) Indian football team coach Igor Stimac has lashed out at the referee for “robbing” his side of victory in the semifinal of the King’s Cup against higher-ranked Iraq here.
A Sunil Chhetri-less India conceded a late goal off a debatable penalty to miss out on their first ever win over Iraq, who won the match via penalty shootout on Thursday.
Taking to social media after India’s heartbreaking loss, Stimac praised his men’s performance, saying a day will come when even the referee’s controversial decisions won’t be able to stop his team from winning matches.
“Our boys left everything on that pitch tonight and I am immensely proud of them! Someone decided to rob them from winning tonight but the time will come sooner than many expect that even referees will not be able to stop my boys winning such games!” Stimac said after the match.
India will take on Lebanon in the bronze-medal playoff, which will be followed by the summit clash between Iraq and Thailand on Sunday.
Sandesh Jhinghan was adjudged to have fouled one of Iraq’s forwards, and Aymen Ghadhban slotted home the equaliser.
The game ended 2-2 in regulation time and after Brandon Fernandes missed the opening kick from the spot, Iraq were able to advance into the King’s Cup final in which they will meet hosts Thailand.
Iraq is ranked 70th in the FIFA rankings while the Indians are placed at 99th.
India had already claimed two third-place finishes in the tournament, including the most recent one coming in 2019.
India 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 clear-cut penalty but Ghadhban himself stepped up to take the kick from the spot and scored to level the match 2-2 and take it to the penalty shootout.
Iraq then won 5-4 in the shootout with Fernandez failing to score as his kick hit the post and went out.
The defeat marked the end of India’s impressive unbeaten streak of 12 matches, as they suffered their first loss of the year.
Source: PTI News