Super sub Balwant’s brace extends India’s unbeaten streak
Striker Balwant Singh came off the bench to score a brace as India breezed past Macau 2-0 in their third match of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers at the Macau Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. The win extended the Blue Tigers’ unbeaten run to 11 matches and kept intact their unblemished record in Group A.
India took the game to their opponents from the word go. With almost all their players in the Macanese half, they surged forward with wave after wave of threatening attacks. The hosts, on their part, created a sort of nine-man defence giving everything to keep the visitors at bay.
Jeje Lalpekhlua was involved in the first real chance of the game as a lovely turn outfoxed his marker, and found him straight on goal, albeit from a slightly acute angle. He unselfishly tried to put it on a plate for the incoming Sunil Chhetri, but India’s captain could not get the proper connection required to hit the target.
As the game progressed though, chances were few and far between; and the Blue Tigers, with a significant share of the possession, were restricted to shots from outside the box.
The 36th minute brought in a flurry of chances as Eugeneson Lyngdoh let fly with a chest and volley, but the belter of a shot hit the crossbar. The ball came back to Rowllin Borges, but he could only manage a tame shot into the grateful arms of Macau goalkeeper, Ho Man Fai.
Three minutes later, Jeje’s attempted looping header from a lovely Narayan Das ball just went over the crossbar.
But try as they might, parking the bus worked pretty well for the Macanese as the teams went into the half-time break at 0-0.
Balwant Singh replaced Lyngdoh for the second half, which started off much the same as the first. The 50th minute brought in the first chance, when Pritam Kotal’s delightful ball from the right found Chhetri. However, his first-time header was palmed onto the post by the ‘keeper.
The much-deserved and much-awaited opener for the Blue Tigers came in the 57th minute when Narayan Das floated in a ball from the left, and substitute Balwant rose high to pounce with a header that found the back of the net.
Three minutes later, he almost found a second goal when his diving header from Pritam’s cross just missed the target with the goalie rooted to his spot.
It was Pritam’s turn to come close in the 64th minute when his thumping long-range effort was just about tipped over by the Macau ‘keeper.
Balwant continued to be a nuisance in the opponent’s box, and a 72nd minute corner had him heading the ball into the side netting, just inches wide off the target.
But the second goal would eventually come for the striker, and it was a comedy of errors that brought it. Defender Lam Ngai Tom misread a long ball and could not get a foot on it, and Balwant was at hand to put it into an empty net with the goalkeeper also off his line.
Three minutes of added time made no difference to the score line as India eased to a much-deserved 2-0 victory. This made it a perfect three wins out of three for the Blue Tigers, which solidifies their position on top of Group A.