Chhetri, Jeje and Jhingan on target as India overcome Cambodia 3-2
India edged Cambodia 3-2 in an international friendly at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. The fixture was a part of India’s preparation for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers ahead of their opening match against Myanmar next week. India opened the scoring courtesy of Sunil Chhetri in the 36th minute but a Laboravy Khuon goal soon after saw the sides level-pegging at the break. Two quick-fire goals from substitutes Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sandesh Jhingan at the start of the second half re-established India’s lead and handed them the win even though Chan Vathanaka pulled one back for the home side.
The first chance of the game went to the hosts in the 8th minute when a free-kick by Chrerng Polroth caught out India’s backline. Polroth’s ball was neatly controlled on the left by dangerman Vathanaka, whose squared ball across the face of goal deflected off Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s fingertips, falling nicely for Bin Chantha, who blazed over the crossbar.
Pritam Kotal conceded possession nine minutes later as another Cambodia attack ended in an effort by Vathanaka finding its way straight into goalkeeper Sandhu’s hands. India’s first sight of goal came in the 20th minute when an overlapping Kotal produced a dangerous ball from the right into the box. His cross, however, was somehow missed by Robin Singh and Fulganco Cardozo, allowing the Cambodians to clear the danger.
Cambodia missed another opportunity to get their noses in front just before the half-hour mark when a looping corner by Prak Mony Udom was missed by Sandhu and found Soueuy Visal at the far post. Visal’s attempt on goal though was inches wide of the target as he failed to put into an open net.
It allowed India to take the lead in the 36th minute after Um Sereyroth completely missed his attempted clearance of a Eugeneson Lyngdoh corner, allowing the ball to find its way to Chhetri, who cajoled the ball into an empty net making it 1-0 for India.
Cambodia responded immediately with Udom demonstrating tremendous pace on the left as he carried the ball towards the byline before crossing to an unmarked Laboravy in the penalty box. Laboravy kept his composure and finished clinically with a powerful effort that beat Sandhu at his near post to make it 1-1 heading into the halftime interval.
The Blue Tigers raised their game in the second period following the introduction of Jackichand Singh in the closing stages of the first half and Jeje as well as Jhingan at the start of the second. They were rewarded four minutes into the half after some brilliant footwork from Jackichand saw him cut infield and dance past two opposition markers before finding Jeje.
The 26-year-old striker finished comfortably beyond an outrushing goalkeeper as his shot hit the post on its way into the back of the net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead. India made it 3-1 three minutes later courtesy of Jhingan, who rose highest to power in another Lyngdoh corner into the back of the net.
Cambodia weren’t about to go away without a fight though and pulled one back shortly after the hour mark. Vathanaka picked up possession on the edge of India’s box before letting loose through the defenders’ legs and beyond Sandhu in goal to make it 3-2 and set up a grandstand finish.
The hosts saw most of the possession and created a few good chances in the closing stages of the game as they pushed hard in search of an equaliser. However, some resolute defending by the Blue Tigers along with heroics from Sandhu in goal ensured victory for Stephen Constantine’s men.
The hard-fought win makes for ideal preparation for India, who will be looking to secure another win away from home when they take on Myanmar in Yangon on Tuesday in what will be their opening 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers match in group A.