After 730 days, exactly almost two whole years later, India has finally ended their winless streak and won a competitive football match, previously having beat Thailand in the King’s Cup on 8th June 2019, in a close 1-0 encounter. After losing their last game to Qatar, yesterday’s match against fellow neighbours Bangladesh was a must-win for the Blue Tigers to keep hopes of qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup alive.
Speaking ahead of the game, defender Sandesh Jhingan said in the pre-match press conference that they will make everyone proud against Bangladesh, and that is exactly what they did, whilst giving millions of fans back in India a glimpse of hope.
Here are the five takeaways from India’s 2-0 victory over Bangladesh.
- Sunil Chhetri – Persistent and reliable time and again
Sunil Chhetri (Captain, Leader, Legend), is how he is known for his contributions to the country. But, after last night’s performance, he might as well be considered a God, in a country, where sports stars and icons are loved and adored just as much, where the sport is a religion for the millions.
Scoring those two goals meant that he now finds himself with the very elites of the game, in the list of the highest International Goalscorers of all time, he ranks 11th in the list, which includes the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Pele. But, for him, the two goals meant more for keeping the qualification hopes alive for India.
Turning critics into admirers, Chhetri is now the first Indian to score an international goal in three different decades. Once again he showed his mettle and delivered when his team needed him the most. He was not having the best of games, missing two clear-cut chances in front of goal, made a few bad decisions at crucial moments with his pass selection, not to forget the defensive display put up by Bangladesh, which was frustrating for the entire Indian team.
Despite this Chhetri showed his class, and did not let those misses get to his head and affect him. He kept persisting and worked hard for the team and finally broke the deadlock in the 79th minute when he headed a cross provided by Ashique Kuruniyan from the left flank. A little later, in the final minutes of the game, Bangladesh was exposed, and Suresh Singh found space inside the box and cut the ball back for Chhetri, and again he was composed enough to just lift the ball over the defender in front of him, out of reach of the goalkeeper, and find the back of the net, to ensure three important points for the Blue Tigers.
2. Positive and bold decisions made by Igor Stimac
After a very defensive and hard-fought display against Qatar in the previous game, the match against Bangladesh was a must-win for India to keep the hopes of Qualification alive. This meant Igor Stimac had to go with a more offensive line-up against the Bengal Tigers. He went with a 3-4-3 line-up, but it was not just that, there was a lot of freedom and movement, especially for playmaker Brandon Fernandes, and right-wing back Udanta Singh.
In the opening few minutes, both teams looked a little shaky in possession, but soon India started to get control of the ball and started dominating possession. For a team like Bangladesh, who like to sit back and soak the pressure, it was only right to go with a very attacking line-up, and rightly so, there was a lot of excitement about the offensive side selection Stimac had promised.
But, his decision to not sit back and make two substitutions during half-time was positive, which also had a huge impact on the game. Bipin Singh had a decent first half, running at the opposition defenders, and putting in decent crosses from the left.
His decision to remove Bipin was very bold, but the player he brought in place of Bipin, Ashique Kuruniyan, provided the assist for the first goal. It just showed Stimac’s desire to get the three points.