Chhetri bags winner as India edge past Kyrgyz Republic

Chhetri bags winner as India edge past Kyrgyz Republic

India beat Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday. The nation’s all-time leading goal-scorer Sunil Chhetri scored the solitary goal of the game in the 69th minute, which helped send the Blue Tigers, three points clear at the summit of Group A in their 2019 AFC Cup Qualification campaign.

Even though the visitors saw more of the ball early on, they failed to create any chance of note. The hosts soon started to grow into the game with Jackichand Singh taking the initiative to cut infield from the left before blazing over the bar.

Jackichand was involved in another chance moments later when Chhetri made his way through the opposition’s midfield and exchanged passes with the pacey winger before continuing his run into the box. Chhetri, however, failed to get a good first touch on Jackichand’s return pass and could only manage to set up Holicharan Narzary, whose shot on goal was easily saved by the goalkeeper.

The hosts also had a chance of taking the lead 10 minutes from half-time when quick-thinking from Chhetri saw him set up Jeje Lalpekhlua on a one-v-one situation against the opposition keeper courtesy of a throw-in. Lalpekhula fired at the bottom corner but the Kyrgyz Republic was up to the task and made the save.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity of the half fell the visitors’ way on the brink of half-time when a misjudged cross by Pritam Kotal saw the ball find its way to Mirlan Murzaev, who set up Vitaly Lux for a massive chance. Only a heroic diving-clearance by Sandesh Jhingan prevented Lux from giving the White Falcons the lead at the break.

Kyrgyz Republic also began the second period well and had another big chance after Murzaev and Lux had done well to hold the ball up before releasing Ahlidin Israilov, who blazed high and wide with the goal at his mercy from close range. Israilov then produced a thunderous effort soon after, which rattled the woodwork.

India wasted a chance of their own moments later when Chhetri failed to find a proper connection on a cross and sent his attempt wide of goal. The Blue Tigers were almost made to pay for the miss on the hour-mark but for some spectacular rearguard action from Jhingan and Anas Edathodika.

Israilov this time set up Murzaev for a shot that was well-saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal. The rebound, however, fell to Lux as he unleashed a ferocious goal-bound volley that required the diving interventions of Jhingan and Anas on the goal-line to somehow clear the danger and keep it scoreless.

It proved to be pivotal with Chhetri netting the winner just nine minutes later after some dazzling footwork and clinical finishing gave India the lead. The skipper exhibited individual brilliance to skip away from the visitors’ midfield before finding Jeje, who lobbed the ball over their backline for Chhetri to execute a first-time finish into the bottom corner.

Kyrgyz Republic threw everything at India’s defence in the closing stages of the game, leaving plenty of space at the back in their desperate search for an equaliser. Both Chhetri and substitute Robin Singh could have doubled the lead late on but India held on to make it two wins from two in Group A.

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