Eugeneson Lyngdoh has waned and Balwant Singh has risen!
Written by: Sabin Castelino
We take a look at the five talking points as India put on a dominating yet slow display against Macau who hosted only to defend.
Usually, the feeling you get when your national team is on a 10-match undefeated streak and has just made it to 11 is happiness and elation, but that was not entirely the case after 90 minutes in Macau where India clinched the top spot in Group A of the Asian Cup qualifiers with a 2-0 win over the home team. India enjoyed the victory with a dominant display and were surely not expecting to run out winners as easily as they did, but will surely take the win in their stride.
In the build up to the game, the tone of Indian manager Stephen Constantine suggested that the Blue Tigers would need to be on their toes as Macau would be gunning for a victory at their home stadium. As the game ensued, the attack from Macau never came, resulting into match-commentator Paul Mansfield asking, “Have they even had a shot?” The statement summarized the match, where the game was one sided and the Greens were mostly defending in their final third, let alone their own half.
India went against their general flow and started attacking in the very first minute. This was unlike their previous games where they had needed to concede a goal to wake-up or had strung their first move in the 20-30 minute bracket. The opposition seemed to have pre-decided that they were going to sit back and absorb all the pressure and if and when they get a counter-attacking chance, they would leap forward. But the traffic on this high way was uni-directional and quite frankly boring.
To add to the frustration, India, being led by Captain Fantastic, Sunil Chhetri were lacking the finishing touch when it mattered. As an ardent football follower, one might give credit to the defense for holding up against the barrage, but that wasn’t the case. India seemed to squander almost all the moves created by the midfield and flanks in the first half. To add that Jeje and Chettri could barely move in a crowded defense, which more or less looked like a crowded Mumbai local.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh looks to be on the wane
The much-praised midfield mainstay Eugeneson Lyngdoh who has contributed hugely in the past seems to be on a steady decline. His creative influence in an open midfield was abysmal and that just aggravated the whole situation. The India No. 7 was more into recycling the ball and did come close with an attempt which hit the bar, but that just wasn't enough. Even Stephen realized this and replaced him with Balwant Singh at half time. Eugenson either needs to find his golden touch or Constantine needs to find a new creative midfielder.
Lyngdoh struggled to find a rhythm and was not being able to find the runs with consummate ease, something which he did in the past. Stephen realized this and replaced him with an ever-trying Balwant Singh at half time. Eugenson either needs to find his golden touch or Constantine needs to find a new creative midfielder, maybe molding Md. Rafique or Anirudh Thapa for the future.
Rowlin Borges is India's flag-bearer in the midfield
The man who doesn’t get enough praise, Rowlin Borges, was again exceptional on a dull night as he stuck to his guns and delivered the goods. Borges has been the focal pivot point of Constantine’s Indian revolution and has looked undeterred in the defensive midfielder’s role. Even in this match, despite having a creatively declining partner, he did his work of recycling the ball and keeping the Macau defense on their toes.
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Borges had a terrific Tri-Nation series and looks to be slowly growing into the role of a deep-lying playmaker. If his passing abilities are given more confidence, Borges is set to evolve into India's long term solution in the No. 6 role.
Balwant Singh has hit the right note and is here to stay
The Star/Hero/Man of the Match award goes to none other than Balwant Singh, whose reintroduction to the national scene has been nothing short of a revelation. He has now scored 3 goals in as many games and has surely won many Indian hearts with his spirited style of play. He never seems to stop running, knows exactly where the ball is going to be and is a clinical finisher.
Balwant Singh has given a good account of himself, scoring thrice in three appearances
Some may say he had 5 clear cut chances, but surely he did score two more goals than the ones who played almost the entire match. Getting behind the defense is exactly what the No. 18 did, something which Jeje was failing to do. Balwant Singh showed why he was picked by Stephen and if he continues like this, he may even turn out to replace Robin Singh in the immediate future.
Stephen Constantine should've made more U-23 changes
Stephen also used this opportunity to put in a fresh face in the form of Germanpreet Singh in place of the industrious Holicharan Nazary, who had a strong outing. Germanpreet was part of the grooming process Stephen Constantine has been working upon for some time now, and it was baffling to see someone like Jackichand Singh come on for Udanta Kumam and not Nikhil Poojary. Poojary is known for his directness and his ability to beat defenders on the run, with a good ability to send in vicious crosses.
Constantine should also have allowed a little time to Anirudh Thapa, easily India's best option to replace the fading Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Thapa is one of the brightest talents present in India at the moment and playing him against an opposition almost afraid to attack would've been good exposure. Thapa may have broken the rigid defense with his passing or off-the-ball runs, something he did regularly at Minerva Punjab FC last season in the I-league.
India vs Macau 2-0 Highlights and goals
The Indian defense went untested
The Indian defense has been rarely mentioned after the game, and readers might even doubt their presence on the pitch. Apart from a few timely tackles, Jhingan and Edathodika were mostly strolling in the park and by the end of the game, were playing as midfielders. Gurpreet had next to nothing to do in the game and surely might have needed to warm up again before the second half began. Although Gurpreet did make an assist that led to Balwant Singh’s second goal, apart from that, he was a lonely man in his half.
India did dominate the game from the first whistle to the last but this wasn’t due to India’s technical superiority alone but also due to the fact that Macau simply lacked the quality. Macau, in this game, showed that FIFA rankings aren’t entirely pointless. The take away from this match was best described by the captain in 140 characters, 'While there is lots to work and improve upon after tonight, glad that we are coming back with 3 points. We will keep learning and improving.'
Published: Wed Sep 06, 2017 04:54 PM IST