India’s U-16 side started their UAE tour with a win over local side Liwa FC’s U-19 team. Coached by former Indian midfielder Bibiano Fernandes, the young colts rode a second half strike from midfielder Ebindas Yesudasan to register their first victory of the tour at the Spanish Soccer School Ground in Sports City.
The Indian team was initially scheduled to play four matches on this exposure trip including games against Al Hamriyah FC, Sharjah FC and UAE U-16. However, the match against Al Hamriyah had to be cancelled after four of the opposition players contracted Covid-19. The team management then hurriedly put together this fixture against local outfit Liwa FC. The final two friendlies against UAE U-16 are set to go ahead as planned on the 21st and 24th of this month.
The game was mostly dominated by the Indian lads who were a constant goalmouth threat. However, even though they came close in the first half, the hosts managed to keep the score goalless. The only goal of the match came in the 71st minute when Ebindas pounced on some indecisive passing from the Liwa players inside their own penalty box before rifling his shot into the top right corner. Defender Amandeep and goalkeeper Lionel Rymnei were the other heroes on the day as both played crucial roles in keeping the Liwa attackers at bay.
Bibiano Fernandes was instrumental in India’s SAFF U-15 Championship victories in 2017 and 2019. He had also claimed last year that India’s U-16 side ‘will be amongst the top five teams in Asia soon’. With an efficient scouting system finally put in place by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that focuses on the Subroto Cup and zonal competitions to spot young talents, there is cause for optimism. However, the youngsters need to get more exposure against tough opponents and performances like these should ensure that that is the case going forward.