Chhetri scores dramatic late winner as India edge Myanmar 1-0

Chhetri scores dramatic late winner as India edge Myanmar 1-0

India scraped a 1-0 win against Myanmar in their opening 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying game at the Thuwanna YTC Stadium in Yangon on Tuesday. Sunil Chhetri scored the winner in dramatic fashion in the last minute of normal time to hand Stephen Constantine’s men a winning start to the qualifying campaign.

The home side did most of the attacking in the opening exchanges of the game as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was kept busy by a prying Myanmar frontline. However, a free-kick in the 20th minute by Ko Ko, which was collected safely by Sandhu, was the closest they came to taking an early lead.

Jeje Lalpekhlua led an Indian counter four minutes later but the attack ended in Robin Singh’s shot meeting with a firm block by Myanmar’s defence. Jackichand Singh then found himself with a huge opportunity just before the half-hour mark when a miscued clearance by Myanmar’s goalkeeper found its way to him.

The 25-year-old’s attempted lob though didn’t come off to the disappointment of the visitors. He missed another golden chance in the 31st minute after Robin’s ball from the left, which required a tap-in by Jackichand, was put wide from two yards out.

Myanmar responded with a stinging shot from Si Thu Aung eight minutes later. The Indian skipper though produced a comfortable save low to his left as both sides went in for the half-time interval level-pegging at 0-0.

The hosts again began the second period on the front foot with new-found impetus in the final attacking-third. Ko Ko unleashed a venomous effort from range three minutes into the half but his shot flew way over the crossbar. Another shot from distance soon after by Yan Aung Kyaw also flew over the crossbar – albeit by inches on this occasion.

Yan Naiang Oo then tested Sandhu in goal with a shot through the legs of left-back Narayan Das. His effort though was tame and made for an easy save for the Indian custodian. India tried to do some attacking of their own amidst relentless pressure from Myanmar and had a massive penalty appeal turned down in the 71st minute after Chhetri was brought down inside the box.

India tried to break to deadlock through back-to-back free-kicks in threatening areas during the last 10 minutes but Myanmar defended resolutely to thwart any danger. The last five minutes of the match saw the game becoming increasingly stretched as both teams pushed on for a late winner.

Myanmar’s Ko Ko and India’s Udanta Singh, both had good chances to win it late but nothing came of these opportunities. Myanmar’s last chance of the game went to Ko Ko after a delightful ball from the left found him unmarked in the penalty area.

His poor header failed to test Sandhu and proved to be costly, allowing India to launch a quick break that saw Jeje link up excellently with Udanta, who ran on to a ball down the right flank. Udanta’s pass was converted clinically by Chhetri to give India a 90th-minute winner and a 1-0 win.

The Blue Tigers will now be looking to build upon their successful start to their qualifying campaign in their next tie against visitors Kyrgyzstan on June 13.

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