India grab dramatic win in Asian Cup qualifiers opener against Myanmar
Written by: Mrunal Nakashe
The Blue Tigers have now won back-to-back away games...
There were four changes to the team that won 2-3 away to Cambodia a week ago as Narayan Das, Sandesh Jhingan, Jackichand Singh and Jeje Lalpekhlua all found their way into the team.
In the early stages, the match was an end-to-end affair but both teams’ attack faltered in the final third. The first opportunity came the hosts’ way when experienced striker Kwaw Ko Ko was put through on goal by a ball over the top, but Gurpreet raced off his line to collect. The Indians responded five minutes later through a Jeje Lalpekhlua shot on the half-volley from just outside the box, but it went just wide. Myanmar went straight up the other end as Aung Thu and Si Thu combined to set up Kwaw but his shot was again blocked for a corner.
On 20 minutes, Ko Ko was once again one-on-one with Gurpreet but the offside flag came to India’s rescue. Five minutes later the Myanmar No. 10 worked his way into the box and setup Aung Thu, but the striker couldn’t get his foot on the ball with the keeper out of position.
India should have scored against the run of play when Narayan Das’ cross found the late run of Jackichand, but he fluffed his lines with the net gaping. The visitors missed another opportunity past the half hour mark when Jeje put it on a plate for Jackichand, but this time the winger sent it over from almost under the crossbar.
In the 35th minute, Aung Thu raced onto a ball but his placed effort was comfortable for the keeper. Minutes later, Robin Singh, cleverly used his strength to get into the box after receiving the ball on the left, but after failing to cross to an open Lalpekhlua in the middle, he hit a weak shot straight at the keeper.
Match Highlights: Myanmar 0-1 India
In the 40th minute, Myanmar produced another cross from the right through Sithu which was well punched away by Gurpreet. On the stroke of half-time, Ko Ko received the ball in the box but his placed shot flashed just wide of the far post.
Both teams went into the break goalless and they would have wondered how they didn’t manage to score.
The hosts continued their dominance in the second half as three minutes after the restart Ko Ko had another shot on goal that flew over. On 53 minutes, Yan Naing Oo cut into the box from the right but shot over. Two minutes later a half clearance came to captain Yan Aung Kwaw whose first-time shot went well over.
After the hour mark, Myanmar had two more opportunities, both through Naing Oo. First, he cut in from the right and shot straight at Gurpreet and then blazed over from just outside the box.
On 72 minutes, substitute Udanta Singh was cleverly played in and went down under a challenge in what looked like a penalty, but the referee waved played on. At the other end, Aung Thu dashed into the box before going down, but once again the referee said nothing doing.
With less than 10 minutes to go India produced three more opportunities. First, a Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s free-kick was easily cleared, while another was well collected by keeper Sithu. Next, Udanta’s shot was straight at the keeper. Ko Ko responded with two chances for the hosts. First, his shot from inside the box was blocked before being collected by the keeper. Next, he failed to keep his free header on target.
When it looked as though the match would end goalless, ‘captain fantastic’ Sunil Chhetri scored in the final minute. Udanta burst forward on the right and managed to pick out the skipper in the middle who scored with a classy finish.
The win means India begin their road to the Asian Cup 2019 with a win and have now won two away games in a row, which might see them rise to 106th on the FIFA rankings.
Published: Tue Mar 28, 2017 07:52 PM IST