A penalty from captain Sunil Chhetri and a well-taken strike from Jeje Lalpekhlua spared the Blue Tigers their blushes against the White Angels.
India continue to be on top spot in Group A as they drew 2-2 with Myanmar in the AFC Asian Cup Qualifier played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa earlier in the evening, making it 13 points in 5 games. India have now made it a 13-game unbeaten run in International football, at par with Belgium and only behind Germany, who’re at 20.
Yan Naing Oo gave an early lead to the visitors in the very first minutes, while Sunil Chhetri restored the parity from the spot for the Blue Tigers. The White Eagles once again took the lead through Kyaw Ko Ko but Jeje Lalpekhlua came to rescue a point for India in the second half.
Blue Tigers gaffer Stephen Constantine made few changes as Germanpreet Singh were given the responsibility of holding midfielder, while he also brought in Jerry Lalrinzuala and Udanta Singh to bring pace on the wing. Whereas, keeper Kyaw Htet and midfielder Hlaing Bo Bo were two changes for the Myanmar side which drew Kyrgyz Republic in the last match.
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India have already qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 but wanted to keep their undefeated streak intact against Myanmar who needed a win to ensure their own qualification for the tournament. The game got off to a shocking start for the Blue Tigers, when Myanmar launched an electric move from the left-wing and Thein Than Win put in a great cross for Niang Oo to win the header over Jerry Lalrinzuala and give the lead to the visitors in the opening 30 seconds. They almost doubled their lead two minutes later, when a terrible miss-pass from Sandesh Jhingan fell to Kyaw Ko Ko, who couldn’t put the ball past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
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The Blue Tigers weren’t concentrating properly and Myanmar dominated the early possession because of the Indian players failing to keep the ball at their feet. But, captain fantastic Sunil Chhetri provided some inspiration in the 12th minute when he won a penalty for India, later slicing the ball into the bottom right corner to make it 1-1.
However, Myanmar kept looked the hungrier side even after conceding that poor penalty and in the 19th minute, Kyaw Ko Ko took advantage of a complete lack of pressing down by India, hitting a low shot from around 25 yards which went under Gurpreet and regained the lead for the White Angels.
Chhetri was looking like the only attacking threat for India, as he stole the ball in the Myanmar half and went forward on the attack in the 29th minute, passing to Germanpreet whose shot deflected for a corner. It was a great corner which found the powerful head of Jhingan, but the darting attempt was parried away brilliantly by Kyaw Zin Htet. Kyaw Ko Ko got another chance at getting a goal in the 34th minute when Myanmar received a free-kick and the goalscorer whipped in a powerful attempt which was strongly parried away by Sandhu.
Jhingan received another chance at goal in the 39th minute, when a powerful free-kick found its way to him free in the box, but he couldn’t place his shot on target and saw it sail over the bar. India found an opportunity to equalize in the dying minutes of the half, when Jeje Lalpekhlua set Chhetri through on goal, with the captain’s left-foot shot wheezing narrowly past the bottom left corner. On the whole, the visitors went into the break with a deserved lead in a game that could have seen more goals.
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The second session started with a midfield play from both the side where both the teams penetrated opponent defence at regular intervals. However, the first potent attempt came in the 57th minutes when Pritam Kotal came up with an excellent cross to find Chhetri in the box from the right but the skipper saw his header miss the target by few inches.
Boost-up by the move, India came with series of attacks on the opponents but strong defending from Myanmar last line and poor finishing by forwards restricted the Indian from finding the equaliser.
However, the visitors could not hold them for too long as Jeje put the Blue Tiger on the level when Lyngdoh’s long ball nicely chested down by the striker before placing it at the far post making it all square in the 69th minutes.
India had the best chance of the match in the 86th minutes when Myanmar defender’s back pass was directly collected by their custodian Htet giving away the indirect free-kick just outside the 6yards box where skipper Chhetri inch-perfect shot entered the frame but the same was disallowed by referee Liu Man as the ball failed to connect the second touch.
However, the skipper Chhetri had another chance in the added time to confirm all three points for his side when he nicely combined with Thapa in the box but chip shot just went over the crossbar as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.