AL AIN — India had their hearts broken by an injury time penalty as Bahrain handed Stephen Constantine’s side a late 1-0 defeat that knocked them out of the Asian Cup on Monday evening.
India needed a draw to progress beyond the group phase for the first time in their history, but Jamal Rashed’s spot kick a minute into injury time gave Bahrain a victory that sees them advance as to the next round as third place finishers in group A.
They join hosts the United Arab Emirates and Thailand in the Round of 16 after the pair played out a 1-1 draw in Al Ain that ensured Alberto Zaccheroni’s side took top spot, with the Thais in second thanks to their superior head-to-head record over Bahrain.
The top two nations in each of the six groups at the newly-expanded 24-team Asian Cup advance to the knockout rounds, with the four third placed teams with the best records also progressing.
Bahrain, with four points from their three games, cannot be surpassed by more than two of the third-placed teams no matter the outcome of the remaining group games.
UAE topped the group with five points from their three games, wile the Thais progressed to the next phase for the first time since 1972. “I was expecting a better performance,” said UAE coach Zaccheroni after his side’s draw.
“We scored the early goal and controlled the game, but after scoring we conceded the equalizer. We lost concentration and didn’t take advantage of playing at home.”
Mabkhout gave UAE the lead with just seven minutes on the clock when he headed in from close range after Ismail Al Hammadi’s earlier effort had come back off the woodwork.
The Thais levelled with four minutes remaining in the half when Chanathip Songkrasin’s ball into the penalty area caused the home defense to panic, and Thitiphan Puangjan capitalized to slide the ball in.
Stephen Constantine has resigned as India’s head coach after they were knocked out of the AFC Asian Cup following a 1-0 defeat by Bahrain in Sharjah on Monday.
Needing a draw to progress to the knockout stage for the first time, India finished bottom of Group A after conceding an injury-time penalty that allowed Bahrain to leapfrog them into third place.
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) confirmed on its Twitter account that the former Millwall coach, who took over the job in 2015 for a second stint with the team, had stepped down.
“We haven’t received any official communication from him yet but we accept his decision & thank him for his contribution to #Indianfootball,” AIFF general secretary Kushal Das was quoted as saying.
Constantine said he was stepping down having achieved the target of helping India qualify for the continental showpiece after an eight-year gap. The side also broke into the top 100 in the FIFA rankings last year.
“My objective from day one was to qualify for the Asian Cup,” the 56-year-old Englishman, who first coached India from 2002-2005, told reporters after the match.
“I’ve done that and I’m exceptionally proud of the players for everything they have given.
“I think my cycle has finished. I did what I was asked to and a little bit more and, after four years, it’s time to leave.
“I’m sad to be leaving, the players and staff have been fantastic throughout … even those who failed to make the final squad.” — Reuters