Iraq Triumphs Over India in Thrilling King’s Cup Semifinal, Winning 5-4 in Penalty Shootout After 2-2 Draw in Regulation Time
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Chiang Mai, Thailand – In a thrilling semifinal match of the King’s Cup, Iraq emerged victorious over India after a nail-biting penalty shootout. The game ended 2-2 in regulation time at the iconic 700th Anniversary of Chiang Mai stadium.
A Spectacular Start
The match began with Iraq dominating possession, but India’s resilient defense kept them at bay. Surprisingly, it was India who broke the deadlock in the 17th minute with a stunning counter-attack. Sahal Abdul Samad initiated the move by sprinting down the left flank and delivering a precise pass to Mahesh Singh, who had started as the right winger. Singh calmly slotted the ball home, giving India the lead. The absence of Sunil Chhetri, who was back in India for the birth of his child, meant that Manvir Singh had to lead the line, and his crucial build-up play played a pivotal role in setting up the goal.
Iraq Strikes Back
Iraq responded swiftly, equalizing just ten minutes later after Sandesh Jhingan was penalized for a handball inside the box. Ali Karim confidently converted the penalty to level the score.
Stalemate at Halftime
The first half ended in a midfield battle, with both teams struggling to assert dominance.
In an attempt to bolster their attack, Javi Grcia made three key substitutions at halftime, including Amin Alhamawi, Aymen Ghabhban, and former Manchester United prospect Zidane Iqbal. This altered Iraq’s playing style, as they resorted to lofting balls into the box, causing problems for the Indian defense. However, against the run of play, India struck again.
In the 51st minute, Samad delivered a long ball into space down the right flank, where Manvir Singh found an overlapping Akash Mishra. Mishra’s cross into the middle was feeble, but Iraq’s goalkeeper and captain, Jalal Hasan, inexplicably spilled the ball into his own net. This unexpected turn of events momentarily stunned Iraq, and their forward momentum waned.
Once Iraq regained their composure, they applied relentless pressure, and India found themselves under siege. Jhingan brought down Ghadbhan inside the six-yard box, conceding a penalty, which Ghadbhan himself expertly converted.
Late in the game, Zidane Iqbal was shown a red card for a deliberate elbow on Brandon Fernandes, a reflection of his frustration at not being able to impact the game. However, neither team could conjure any significant goal-scoring opportunities in the dying minutes.
The Thrilling Shootout
With the score deadlocked at 2-2 after regulation time, the match proceeded directly to a penalty shootout. Brandon Fernandes missed his opening penalty for India, but all subsequent spot-kicks (taken by Salih, Jhingan, Gurpreet, Suresh, Ghadhban, Anwar, Alhamawi, Rahim, and Bonyan) found the back of the net. In the end, Iraq emerged triumphant with a 5-4 victory in the shootout.
Iraq’s victory over India in the King’s Cup semifinal was a testament to their resilience and determination. The thrilling contest kept fans on the edge of their seats until the final penalty was taken. Iraq now advances to the final, where they will face a formidable opponent in their quest for King’s Cup glory.