AL AIN // A smashed refrigerator in the dressing room stood as evidence of India's frustration following their 3-0 defeat against the UAE on Saturday night after having two men sent off inside the first 23 minutes.
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The defender Debabrata Roy was given his marching orders by the Qatari referee, Mohammed Al Dosari, in the 19th minute after he grappled Ali Al Wehaibi to the ground.
Four minutes later, the India goalkeeper, Subrata Pal, followed him to the dressing room after charging at Ismail Al Hammadi with a knee up.
Hamdan Al Kamali and Mohammed Al Shehhi scored from the two resulting penalties and Al Hammadi completed the score-line nine-minutes from time.
Pal, allegedly, took his anger out in the changing room, and Armando Colaco, the India coach, accused the referee of killing off the game.
"My question is, do those incidents merit a red card?," Colaco said. "In the case of Roy, the goalkeeper was behind him. He was not the last defender.
"Subrata had the ball in his hand. So he was protecting it when the player charged him. I know he lifted his leg, but who came charging? Punish him with a yellow card, but not a red card, because he had the ball with him.
"I think the red cards were unnecessary. The referee killed the game. It would have been a very nice game.
"I appreciate and I congratulate UAE for winning this match, but don't forget my boys put up a spirited show because they scored just one field goal."
In the early exchanges, India seemed to be playing true to Colaco's pre-match boast that this is not the same team who got walloped 5-0 at the same venue in November and then at the Asian Cup in January.
The visitors, cheered on by a loud group of supporters, did not seem overawed and looked on par with their rivals, who are ranked 37 places higher by Fifa.
In the 19th minute, however, India were reduced to 10 men when Roy pulled his arms around Al Wehaibi and brought him down. The defender got his marching orders and Al Kamali slotted home from the spot.
A minute later, India lost another man - their goalkeeper Pal, who crashed into Al Hammadi with a raised knee. Play was held up for the next five minutes as the visiting players walked off in protest at the decision by Al Dosari, but the team management convinced them to return.
"Unfortunately there was an emotional outburst there with the referees," said Colaco.
"I am sorry. It all happened in the heat of the moment. The players said they did not want to continue, but I thought about the sanctions that could follow from Fifa and AFC [the Asian Football Confederation]. I told them let's continue and not give any more goals.
"The referee is also human. But to walk away is something I don't think my federation would allow."
The two dismissals forced India to go on the defensive; seven were put on guard duty and Sunil Chhetri played as the lone man upfront.
That, however, could not stop UAE from getting their third goal of the night as Al Hammadi sneaked through the defence and fired home a smart back-flick from Amer Abdulrahman in the 81st minute.
"Frankly speaking, the referee was the man of the match," Colaco said. "The UAE are a much better team and deserved to win for the way they played. We would have played much better football as well … had the referee not been the man of the match."
Srecko Katanec, the UAE coach, was happy that he will be taking a three-goal advantage to Delhi for the reverse leg on Thursday, but believes his team should have scored more.
"Before the game, if somebody had told me 3-0, I would have taken it immediately," Katanec said.
"So I am happy with the result, but I think we should have scored more because we had many chances. This is one area we could certainly improve on.
"We have a big advantage, but we should try to score early [in Delhi] and kill the game.
"We have the quality to keep this advantage."