INDIAN FOOTBALL

India face stalemate in their SAFF Championship opener against Bangladesh

Wolves

India and Bangladesh shared the spoils in an open-ended game at the SAFF Championship 2021. This was India’s opening tie that ended in a 1-1 draw, played at the National Football Stadium, Male, Maldives, on Monday, October 4.

Captain Sunil Chhetri stepped up to give the Blue Tigers the lead. Bangladesh went down to 10 men after Biswanath Ghosh saw red early into the second-half restart. Bangladesh’s Yeasin Arafat later netted in the scored half to draw his side level.

The Blue Tigers began the game strongly. Wave after wave of Indian attack kept the Bangladesh defence on its toes from the very onset. Liston Colaco was energetic in the initial stages. Chhetri’s effort was repelled by the defence following a Colaco cross. Soon after, the attacking midfielder dazzled his way past defenders on the right and swung in a cross. But the defence once more managed to stave it off.

Md. Matin Miah ran onto the ball by Md. Ibrahim. However, the awareness and an early challenge from India centre-half Chinglensana Singh proved decisive in averting danger.

India earn an arduous point to start their SAFF Championship campaign

20 minutes into the game, Udanta combined with Subhasish in a one-two on the left flank to send in a cross at captain Chhetri. The 37-year-old attempted to chest the ball down but ran out of space and lost possession.

In the 24th minute, Subhasish Bose engineered a fine chance. He expertly lobbed the ball in from the left to Manvir Singh who powered a header at goal. However, Bangladesh goalkeeper Anisur Rahman was present and ready to grab the ball from close range.

India finally took the lead in the 27th minute through Chhetri. The striker smashed a cut-back by Udanta Singh, sending it flying into the back of the Bangladesh net. This was the talismanic striker’s 76th goal in International Football.

The referee halted play at the 30th-minute mark for the water break. Soon after, Bangladesh came flying out of the blocks with a renewed vigour. Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan sent a beautiful free-kick across the face goal, but the keeper dealt with it.

India manage to register a point in a hard-fought tie in their opening SAFF Championship 2021 game

In the 39th minute, the Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet was called into action. Md Saad Uddin breached the lines and played off Rakib Hossain through to goal. The latter pivoted and fired a shot that Gurpreet pushed away.

The assault was brief, however, Anirudh Thapa and Sunil Chhetri turned the tide quickly. The youngster picked out his captain with his free-kick and Chhetri directed his header into the path of Rahul Bheke. However, the defender fired wide as the referee blew for half-time.

After the break, India head coach Igor Stimac replaced Anirudh Thapa with Brandon Fernandes. Sunil Chhetri was on his toes even when not in possession. The forward almost scored when he dispossessed Tariq Kazi at the 18-yard mark and forced his way into the Bangladesh box. However, defenders were quick to react and dispossessed him.

Liston Colaco ventured a similar move on Biswanath Ghosh. Nonetheless, the defender took him out with just the goalkeeper to beat. The Bangladesh defender saw red for his efforts and headed down the tunnel.

Sunil Chhetri registered his 76th International goal in the 1-1 draw

Around the 60th minute mark, Manvir Singh came up with one of the best chances for India. He powered his way into the box and unleashed a venomous shot. Anisur Rahman did parry it and the rebound fell to Chhetri. The captain laid off for Udanta whose effort was blocked.

Stimac moved things around a bit more in the second half. Youngster Rahim Ali took Udanta Singh’s place, while Lalengmawia came on for Liston Colaco.

With 15 minutes left to play, Yeasin Arafat levelled the scores. He headed in a corner from Jamal Bhuyan to find the back of the Indian net.

India started to push for a winner. Captain Chhetri created another chance with five minutes on the clock. The India skipper controlled the ball in the opposition penalty area, wrong-footed a defender and played it to Manvir. However, Manvir’s shot was cleared off the line.

With the clock ticking, Bangladesh managed to grab a point. The referee ended the match after four minutes of injury time.

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