Asian Cup Qualifiers: Chhetri fires India to victory


India open their account in Group A of 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers with win against a resurgent Myanmar team, courtesy of a late Sunil Chhetri strike

Stephen Constantine ringed in a number of changes in the starting XI to the one that started against Cambodia. CK Vineeth and Daniel Lalhlimpuia were replaced by Robin Singh and Jeje in the strike force. In defence, Sandesh Jhingan started alongside Anas, while Jackichand started in the wings. At the other end, Myanmar began with their two star players, Aung Thu and Kyaw Ko Ko starting upfront, while Si Thu Aung and Yan Naing Oo started on the wings.

The game started on bright note with both teams vying for the ball equally. After a initial few minutes of pressure from the Indian side, the host began to attack more with their pace and quick through balls causing troubles in the Indian defence. Both sides missed couple of half chances with Aung Thu and Ko Ko for Myanmar and Jeje for India slicing the ball over the post.

Almost at the half hour mark, Myanmar keeper Si Thu, misjudged a Narayan Das’s cross parring the ball to only as far as Jackichand, whose attempted chip was somehow blocked away for corner. Four minutes later, Jackichand was once again guilty of wasting the easiest chance of the game when a Robin Singh’s cross evaded everyone to fall on the path of an onrushing Jackichand; however, the winger lost his footing as he sliced the ball over the post with an open net at his mercy.

Nearing the closing time of first half, Chhetri came close to scoring one but his effort was blocked away by an onrushing Keeper. At the other end, Ko Ko’s shot just evades the far post as both sides enter the tunnel at score 0-0.

Also Read: Air India soar to victory on second half strikes

The second half began with the visitor being pegged back to their own half. The attacking quartet of Myanmar with their pace troubled the Indian defence and created numerous chances but failed to put in a clear finishing move. Anas and Jhingan put in a good shift, constantly breaking the Myanmar attack; however the defence did failed to close gaps as the chances came high and fly for a sustained period of time.

However the Indian team soon came into confidence as they began stitching up their own moves. The introduction of Udanta added an extra impetus to the Indian attack which lacked pace till then. Udanta soon began troubling the Myanmar defence with his nimble foot game and raw pace.

In the 86th minutes, Udanta came close to opening the scoring when his left footed powerful shot from edge of the box was safely caught by the Myanmar custodian. At the other end, Ko Ko missed a clear chance when his unmarked header went way off target.

Myanmar soon paid for failing to cash into their chances, as on a quick counter-attack initiated by Chhetri, Udanta in a breathtaking pace, ran with the ball in to box before cutting it back to an onrushing Chhetri, who made no mistake in putting the ball on the back of the net.

India warded off the final three minutes of injury time without any major hiccups as the game ended with India winning for the first time in 64 years in Myanmar.

Myanmar 0 – 1 India (Chhetri 90’)

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