The Indian U-19 football team suffered a crushing 0-5 loss to hosts Saudi Arabia in its opening match of Group D at the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers here.
The Indian colts were slow off the blocks as the hosts tried to take an early advantage, pressurising the Indian midfield to commit mistakes.
Dheeraj Singh was called into action as early as the 9th minute when he thwarted a Saudi attack from the flanks. A minute later, the hosts could have taken the lead but Abdullah Alhamaddan failed to net the ball after rounding up Dheeraj.
In the 15th minute, India gifted the lead to Saudi Arabia after Anwar Ali’s pass fell to Abdullah Alhamaddan, who slotted the ball into the net to give the hosts a solitary goal lead on Saturday.
Pursuing the equalizer, the Indian colts started to look for counter attacks but were held at bay by a stern Saudi defence at the Prince Mohammad bin Fahad Stadium here.
Ashis Rai’s one-two with Rahul K P resulted into the former onto goal but Rai could only release a feeble shot unable to trouble the Saudi custodian in the 26th minute.
The hosts kept piling on the pressure on India and kept the Indian colts at distance from their goal as the half-time scoreline read 1-0.
In the 50th minute, Saudi Arabia doubled their lead when Feras Albrikan rounded off an onrushing Dheeraj Singh and scored to make the scoreline read 2-0.
The Indian U-19s pressed to minimize the deficit but could only make it past the Saudi midfield, being held by the Saudi defence.
Coach Luis Norton de Matos introduced Edmund and Amarjit Singh to spice up things but Edmund’s shot in the 72nd minute from outside the box was lost as Saudi players defended their box.
Saudi Arabia added another goal in the 75th minute to seal the match after Al-Shahrani blasted the ball into the net, capitalizing on a scuffle inside the Indian box.
The hosts piled on the agony on the Indians with another goal with Al Brikan scoring in the 81st minute to make it 4-0. He added another one in the 86th minute to make it 5-0.
The Indian U-19s face Yemen next on November 6. They would clash with Turkmenistan on November 8.