Rampant India put four past hapless Macau to seal berth in AFC Asian Cup
Photo credit: Indian Football Team/Twitter
The Indian football team helped themselves to four goals at the expense of Macau at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday, sealing a 4-1 win. The result ensured their qualification for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup with two games to spare. Rowllin Borges opened the scoring for the Blue Tigers, and while Macau sneaked in an equaliser through Nicholas Tarrao, strikes from Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua on either side of a Lam Ka Seng own goal ensured a stroll in the park for the hosts.
India started on the front foot and took the attack to Macau from the word go. Sandesh Jhingan and Chhetri both had opportunities to give India the lead within the first four minutes. Jhingan miskicked after the ball fell generously in front of him following a melee from a corner, while skipper Chhetri was denied thanks to some alert goalkeeping when Ho Man Fai just about snatched the ball from his feet. The pouring rain did not help with the passing play, but the Blue Tigers still managed to keep the ball in their opponent’s half for long stretches.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 28th minute when Borges found some space inside the box to get a shot away after a Jeje lay-off. The ball deflected off the defender and wrong-footed Fai to nestle into the back of the net, handing India the lead. Surprisingly, that lead lasted just nine minutes as India switched off for a while, allowing Macau to launch a rare attack.
The visitors’ move ended with Tarrao sneaking in between Jhingan and Pritam Kotal to head in a delightful cross. That equaliser meant that Macau scored their first goal of the qualifier, while India conceded their first. 1-1 was how it remained till the half-time whistle, as Macau went into the tunnel the happier of the two teams.
The Macanese returned to the pitch reinvigorated for the second half as they matched the Indians in all departments. It was the hosts, however, who had the first serious chance of the half as Jhingan brought out a flying save from Fai following his header from a 56th minute corner. India finally re-established their lead on the hour mark, courtesy of Chhetri.
The goal came after Balwant Singh was released on the right flank as he breezed away before laying it off for Chhetri to tap in India’s second of the night. Balwant could have scored himself a couple of minutes later, but his chip in a one-on-one situation with Fai failed to find the target.
Still India pressed and they forced a third goal in the 70th minute when Halicharan Narzary whipped in a dangerous cross. Lam Ka Seng swung a boot at the ball with the intention of clearing it but ended up slicing it into his own goal instead. Jeje then missed a golden opportunity to score a fourth as he shot agonizingly wide to bring an end to a crisp counter attack in the 88th minute.
The Mizo-sniper though would not be denied in the second minute of added time as he tucked in from close-range after Chhetri lay it on a plate for him to cap off a piercing attack. It added gloss to the score-line as India ran out comfortable winners with a 4-1 result. This also meant that India sealed qualification in the AFC Asia Cup for the fourth time in their history.