Turkmenistan down troubled India to add to Constantine’s misery

Turkmenistan hold India to a 1-1 scoreline at half time in a 2018 FIFA World Cup & 2019 AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifier in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

India made two changes to the side which lost 3-0 to Oman as coach Stephan Constantine once again changed his midfield combination and replaced Pranoy Halder and Dhanpal Ganesh with Sehnaj Singh and Francis Fernandes.

Francis Fernandes very nearly justified his selection in the team when his shot in the 6th minute went flying inches wide of the post. An early goal would have been a perfect boost for this troubled Indian side, but Fernandes was unlucky with his effort.

However India’s dismal show in the qualifiers looked set for new episode, when Guvanach Abylov fired the Turkmenistan in the lead three minutes later. The goal pretty much came against the run of play after India had made a bright start to the game, having enjoyed a good spell of possession early on.

But India did well to gather their composure after that sickening early goal and were close to make amends in the 21st minute when Jeje failed to finish off a fine move which once again involved Francis who delivered a delightful pass into the box.

However eight minutes later, Jeje made no mistake as he pounced on some sloppy piece of goalkeeping from the Turkmenistan goalkeeper M. Orazmuhamedow to lob the loose ball over the goalkeeper and bring India back on level terms and quieten the massive Turkmenistan crowd.

Sandesh Jhingan was having another inspired evening at the heart of the Indian defence as he once again threw his body on the line to block a fierce shot from just outside the box in the 38th minute to ensure India goes into the break on level terms.

Stephan Constantine made a change in personnel at half time as he replaced struggling Narayan Das with Lalchhuanmawia at left back.

But the change failed to change things drastically as Turkmenistan regained the lead in the 68th minute through Arslanmyrat Amanov. The goal was the just reward for an improved Turkmenistan performance since the restart and India once again were found wanting.

Jeje was India’s bright spot upfront as he once again escaped his marker to get his header on target four minutes later, but unfortunately for India, his shot went straight at the Turkmenistan goalkeeper.

Stephan Constantine threw on Bikas Jairu in place of Francis Fernandes in the 84th minute as his side desperately searched for an equalizer. Francis was one of India’s better performers after having some bright moments in the match.

But a minute later, India missed a great chance to grab a point from the game when Robin Singh missed an easy chance after being slid through in an one on one position in front of the goal. Turkmenistan were let off the hook for not the first time during the evening’s play and that eventually proved to be the difference as India succumbed to their fourth straight defeat in the qualifiers.

India now travel to Muscat to play Oman in their next qualifier and coach Stephen Constantine has a big job on hands to lift this Indian team and and try to get an unlikely victory against a strong Oman side.

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