Kuala Lumpur: India entered the quarterfinals of the AFC U-16 Championship for the first time in 16 years after playing out a goalless draw with Indonesia on Thursday, continuing the string of encouraging results in recent times.
India ended their Group C engagements with five points from three matches. Their previous best performance came way back in 2002, when they finished the group stage with four points.
With the draw, India finished runners-up in the group, and are likely to face Korea Republic in the next stage.
Head coach Bibiano Fernandes termed the moment "special for Indian football fans".
"We have worked really hard to get where we are and we are very happy with our performance in the group stages. The boys gave their cent percent on the field and we played according to our plan."
Referring to the qualification to the quarters, Bibiano said, "This is a special moment for each and every one back home. The credit goes to all my staff, the grassroots coaches who tutored these kids at a young age, and my players for putting in the hard work day in and day out."
Indonesia had the better of the first half but fell prey to complacency in front of goal, and the spirited Indian defending kept them at bay.
However, India could have taken the lead as early as the 6th minute when a counter-attack from the flanks saw Vikram Partap's header go inches over the goal after he was found on the flank by Ridge De'Mello.
Indonesia upped the ante soon after and threatened the Indian defence.
On the 20th minute, the Indian colts were awarded a golden opportunity to take the lead but Ricky Shabong's shot from inside the box earned a deflection off the leg of an Indonesian defender and went out for a corner.
Despite all the possession by Indonesia, goalkeeper Niraj Kumar was forced into action for the first time only in the 27th minute, when he dived to save a shot from distance.
The Indian defence played tight and compact, thwarting the Indonesian attack line and whatever chances the opponents created, were wasted in front of Niraj Kumar.
Changing over, the Indian Colts restricted Indonesia to the midfield and held them at bay from the attacking third. India even came close to scoring in the 63rd minute when De'Mello was found unmarked in the box but failed to find the back of the Indonesian net as the opponents survived the counter-attack.
Indonesia, despite dominating possession, were not able to create a clear goal scoring chance, often flustered by the Indian defence.
India had the chance to take the lead again on the 72nd minute, but Ricky Shabong failed to find the net from close range, despite the Indonesian custodian being absent.
Updated Date: Sep 27, 2018 22:18:20 IST