India's Sunil Chhetri rues poor finishing in UAE's Asian Cup defeat

But captain refuses to take anything away from hosts before shifting focus on crucial Group A match against Bahrain

India's forward Sunil Chhetri (C-L) vies for the ball with United Arab Emirates' midfielder Ali Salmeen during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group A football match between India and UAE at Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi  on January 10, 2019.  / AFP / Khaled DESOUKI
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India captain Sunil Chhetri was left to rue poor finishing in Thursday night's 2-0 Asian Cup defeat to hosts UAE, but says his side will "fight until the last second" for a place in the knockout stages.

India were right to feel aggrieved by the loss at Zayed Sports City Stadium when, despite creating a number of early chances, they fell behind to Khalfan Mubarak’s strike three minutes before half time.

India then struck the woodwork twice in the second half, with UAE striker Ali Mabkhout scoring in the last minute to make secure the three points.

However, Stephen Constantine's team still sit second in Group A thanks to their opening 4-1 victory against Thailand. The standings mean, should they defeat Bahrain on Monday, they will be guaranteed progression to the last 16.

Asked following the reverse if India deserved to lose to the UAE, Chhetri said: “It’s easy for me to say no, but we didn’t convert chances and they did. So we can’t say they didn’t deserve to win. We should’ve done better with the finishing - things would’ve been different.

“We’re a bit disappointed. We did enough to get a little more from the game. In these kind of big games you’ve got to take your chances. It’s one of those days where we didn’t convert our chances and, in a big game, you don’t get this many chances.”

Chhetri conceded he was culpable for spurning two gilt-edged opportunities in the first half, one a header straight at UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa with the match goalless and the other a pulled shot immediately after the home side had taken the lead shortly before half time.


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“This is one of the important lessons, we knew it,” Chhetri said. “If at the start of the game you would’ve told me we were going to get five chances the way we did, I would’ve taken it. Anyone would’ve taken it. Chances like that against the UAE? You would’ve taken it.

“But then we created them and we didn’t convert, not a single one. If we did that before they did, if we are 2-0 up, things are definitely different. That’s kind of nerves in big games, that kind of confidence you get. So that’s the difference.”

Regarding Monday’s group decider against Bahrain in Sharjah, Chhetri said: “We are confident and we will fight. As I’ve said before, we’re not the most technical side, we’re a young side, but we never shy away from a fight.

"We’re going to fight right to the last second, no matter what happens. And that’s what’s going to happen against Bahrain also. We know exactly what we want in terms of numbers; we’re just going to go there and fight our best.”