India played a goalless draw against Iran in the AFC U-16 Football Championship at the Bukit Jalil Stadium here on Monday.
Superb pressing backed by the confident defensive organization and some sharp counter-attacks helped India's cause.
Ravi Rana missed the first one as his chip went inches over the Iranian goal while the second one was shot inches wide by Sailo after he rounded the Iranian custodian but could not finish from close range.
The match also saw a young lad from Punjab standing under the Indian bar maturing into a young man as goalkeeper Niraj Kumar kept off an Iranian penalty in the 76th minute.
Niraj stayed confident all throughout and was unbeatable in the aerial balls, leaping higher than all every time to collect the crosses from the flanks. He also dived full length to make a stunning save to deny Iran in the 16th minute.
"We could have won the match. It was that close. But the boys gave their hundred percent on the pitch and they performed according to the game plan", coach Bibiano Fernandes told reporters.
"We are happy with a draw, though we aimed for a win and now we focus towards the next match against Indonesia (on September 27)"
The Indian midfield was stubborn as well as the defensive back-four. There were support and backup from each other. It was a superb display of tactical football.
The Indian Colts cajoled an opportunity in the 35th minute of the match, but Ridge De'Mello's shot from outside of the box went inches wide of the goal. The half-time scoreline read goalless as both teams went into the tunnel on level pegging.
In a battle for midfield territory, both teams nullified each other out with chances coming in rare. While the Indian colts relied on counters, Iran resorted to set pieces. Both failed to create goal scoring chances.
Meanwhile, Indian defender Shahbas Ahammed was stretchered off following an injury in the 66th minute and was replaced by Harpreet Singh.