Resuming after the three-day break, Blue Tigers were back in the action up against Bangladesh in the second encounter of the World Cup qualifiers. Adopting lessons from the previous set back India came up with 3-5-2 formation with Manvir Singh and Sunil Chhetri upfront. The head coach Igor Stimac proved to be under immense pressure at the start as today’s match was decisive for his continuation at the helm of the National Team.
The Blue Pilgrims witnessed an entirely different team from what they saw just three days back against Qatar. The boys seemed to be much ignited and thirsty for a win. The head coach stuck on to possession football to quench the pressure of expectation which was loaded on his shoulders by the nation.
Igor Stimac added two new faces to the lineup by fielding Chinglensana Singh and Brandon Fernandes to the lineup. The first half started with our Blue Tigers picking up the possession in the game meanwhile Bangladesh defended deep keeping away Indian spearheads from their defensive third. The new addition Sana proved to add more dynamics to the game as he defender well at the same time contributing to the attack. The 34th minute witnessed a header attempt by Sana but was cleared away by Riyadul. Brandon who took the steers of the midfield tested the Bangladeshi goalkeeper with a shot at the latter minutes of the first half.
Longing for more, Igor Stimac made two crucial changes to the teamsheet by bringing on Ashique Kuruniyan and Yasir Muhammad in place of Udanta Singh and Bipin Singh at the start of the second half of the game. Yasir proved his worth in the later minutes by his vision in the game.
The second half seemed to be an attacking test for the blue tigers as Bangladesh hold back to defend keeping their bodies behind the ball. The later minutes witnessed both teams cancelling each other out. Scooping a heading attempt, receiving the pass from the corner flag, Sandesh Jhingan nearly came close to scoring but was blocked by Topu who defended with his back.
Further on Stimac switched his tactics by providing instructions from the sideline with an intent to make his players score for open goals. It was quite evident that he’ll be happy with nothing less than three points from the game. He made his third substitution by bringing on Liston Colaco in place of Manvir Singh who seemed to be a bit low on pace.
Maintaining 72% possession in the game which is the highest the blue tigers ever had in the group stages of the World Cup qualifiers was a clear intent of their switch from Constantine to Stimac’s era. The boys showcased a good passing game and dominated the opposition half simultaneously felt lacking vision at the final third. Meanwhile, Bangladesh stood strong, stubborn, and drilling their defence as if everything was going well according to their plans.
Two desperate header attempts were wasted by captain Sunil Chhetri and Subashish Bose and nevertheless, without losing enthusiasm the blue tigers kept on attacking. To the results of the never-ending attacks made by the teams, the captain Sunil Chhetri broke the deadlock at the 78th minute with a screaming header to the back of the net receiving the curly assist from Ashique Kuruniyan giving no chance to the opposition keeper.
Taken aback by the goal, Bangladesh switched to attacking to attain the equalizer but was left heartbroken by another screamer from captain Sunil Chhetri who doubled his goals from an open play receiving the through pass from Suresh Wangjam thereby piercing the final nail in the opponent’s coffin.
Shadow boxing till the 78th minute, the captain proved his quality and worth scoring a brace against the opposition. By that, Sunil Chhetri added two more goals to his name with a total of 74 goals and kept his record alive of being the top 2nd active international goalscorer in the world making the country proud again.
The whole nation witnessed a transition from a frustrating first half to a buzzing second half. This match also noted the end to the long winless streak of 11 games after attaining a 2-0 victory against the neighbours at the same time keeping the Asian Cup dreams alive. Team India will now face Afganistan on the 16th of this month in the final clash of the World Cup qualifiers with an intent to finish third in the group to end the qualifiers on a sweet note.
Follow our website for all the latest updates on Indian Football.