India vs. Puerto Rico: Match report-Blue Tigers tame the Hurricane 4-1

India vs Puerto Rico

India’s winning run continued as the blue tigers completely mauled Puerto Ricans in what was the first International friendly at the Andheri sports complex in 61 years. India displayed their finest performances as they thrashed the 114 ranked Puerto Rican side 4-1 with goals from Narayan Das (18’), Sunil Chhetri (26’), Jeje Lalpekhlua (34’) and Jackichand Singh (58’) after Emmanuel Sanchez (8’) had given the away team the lead from the spot.

India made seven changes from the game which won 3-0 against Bhutan last month. Seniors Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Arnab Mondal, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Bikash Jairu and Sunil Chhetri coming back into the first team lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Interim Puerto Rican coach David Guillemat made four changes to the team which lost 1-0 to Dominican Republic. Matt Sanchez, Jeremy Hall, David Caban and Joseph making their way for Johnny Santana, Elliot Velez, Emmanuel Sanchez and Michael Ramos.

The game began with the away side looking confident and ready for the task. The quick short passing and their pace was visible in the first few minutes as India was left chasing the ball most of the time. It soon seemed like a long disappointing evening is on cards when Jackichand Singh gave away an unnecessary penalty in the eight minute and Emmanuel Sanchez made no mistake as he sent sandhu the wrong way from the spot.

India soon realized its situation and began attacking more, Sunil chhetri who hadn’t even got a single touch till India had conceded soon got into the mix of things. India first attempt was pronay halder’s grounder that was easily caught by Puerto Rican GK Santana. But soon Bikash Jairu was tripped just outside the box granting India a free kick. Sunil Chhetri stepped up to take the shot; the ball ricocheted off the woodwork but came directly to the feet of Narayan Das who sent the ball back to the visitors net as the crowd went into a frenzy on drawing level.

The goal seemed just the right tonic as India started attacking more; In the 24 minute, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who was the most threatening player with regular long through balls provide one for Chhetri, who was fouled by Emmanuel D’Andrea winning another free Kick in a dangerous position just outside the box. Sunil Chhetri once again delivered a cool and calmed free kick as the ball once again hit the post at far corner but this time it deflected in to give a well deserved goal for the former Indian captain.

Also Read:“I would rather play Iran and lose 4-0 then play Bhutan and win 5-0”, Says Indian Coach Stephen Constantine

Soon the away team started pressing more but failed at the final part as they failed to beat Gurpreet who seemed rock solid between the stick. A long goal kick from the keeper was flicked by chhetri for Jeje, who laced it back to the onrushing Jackichand Singh, only to see his effort go over the net. The continues attack from the Indians bore result as in the 34th minute of play Pritam kotal’s cross was smartly headed by Chhetri towards Jeje who made no mistake in heading the ball in to the net, as India doubled their advantage.

Sunil Chhetri was in a fabulous form displaying calm, wonderful ball control as he flawlessly plucked the ball from the air more than once. The first half ended with India leading 3-1 with the former Indian captain and highest Indian goal scorer Sunil chhetri coming up with a goal and two assists.

Coach Constantine made two changes at the start of the second half with midfielders Rowllin Borges and Holicharan Narzary replacing Halder and Jairu. For the visitors, goalkeeper Christopher Ecchevaria came in for Santana who had a terrible outing. India had another chance in the 48th minute when another Jackichand Singh’s nervous shot went straight in to the hands of Ecchevaria. India survived a scare in the 54th minute when a ramos shot hit the woodwork and deflected out for goal kick.

Four minutes later a Jeje cross was mishit by lyngdoh just aside of the far post but this time Jackichand was bang on target as India went 4-1 up. India went close once again when a Jeje shot was kept out by a full stretched Ecchevaria. Throughout the game Indian defense was occasionally caught napping, as in the 70 minute when Sanchez was again denied by the post.

With the match completely under India’s grasp, soon Constantine substituted out Jeje and Sunil to give youngsters more minutes under their belt. Sumit Passi, Germanpreet Singh and Seityasen Singh got opportunities to spend some time on the field. The inexperience was clearly visible, when the team despite getting numerous opportunities with wide spaces failed to capitalize anything as India ended the game at 4-1.

The Indian coach has definitely had done his homework. The team looked completely balanced, they were wisely playing to their strengths, executing plans with variations clearly visible like in short corners. The Blue Tigers signed off their last match of 2016 with a victory in what was truly one of the memorable evenings for Indian football fans. A perfect gift for the mumbaikars with a festive season up ahead.

Result: India (Narayan Das (18’), Sunil Chhetri (26’), Jeje Lalpekhlua (34’) and Jackichand Singh (58’))  4 -1 Puerto Rico (Sanchez 8′)

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