Chhetri rises to the occasion with a brace as India see off Bangladesh
India blanked Bangladesh 2-0 at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Monday night and displaced Afghanistan in the third place in Group E of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. Skipper Sunil Chhetri scored a brace in a confidence-boosting win for the Indians, their first in the joint qualifiers.
- India missed a couple of very good chances in the first half.
- More chances were missed before Sunil Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 79th minute
- Chhetri scored his second in injury time to put it beyond Bangladesh.
- Brandon Fernandes had a great game in the middle of the park too.
The match started on a slow note with both teams struggling to control the ball. Though Rakib Hossain was shown a yellow card for a rash tackle on Brandon Fernandes. First real piece of action came in the 7th minute of the game as Bipin Singh on the left earned a corner. However, nothing came of it. Bangladesh had an opportunity of their own through a long throw two minutes later but nothing came of it either.
In the 11th minute, Bipin launched a nice ball into the box but it was put out of danger by the Bangladeshi defence. Chances had now started coming thick and fast for Igor Stimac’s men.
In the 15th minute, Manvir Singh had a great opportunity to put India ahead after Brandon found him with a defence-splitting pass but the striker’s ball-control wasn’t exactly what the team would have liked. He couldn’t take the shot in time, nor could he find anyone else to do it and the opportunity went to waste. Three minutes later, Suresh Wangjam also tested Bangladeshi goalkeeper Anisur Rahman.
These moments suggested that the Indians had well and truly settled into the game. India’s appeal for penalty – as Chhetri appeared to have been fouled in the box – was then turned down by the referee in the 29th minute as he adjudged the Indian skipper to have handled the ball.
On the 34-minute mark, India had another great opportunity as Chinglensana Singh headed on target from a Brandon corner, however, Riyadul Hosan, positioned close to the goal-line, got in the way of the goal-bound ball. Another good piece of defending from Jamie Day’s men maintained the deadlock.
All in all, the first half belonged to the Blue Tigers, however, they hadn’t had any goals to show for their dominance as both the teams headed into the break at 0-0.
India made two changes at the break with Ashique Kuruniyan replacing Bipin and Mohammed Yasir taking the place of Udanta Singh. They continued creating chances, however, none were clear-cut as the match went past the hour mark. The Bangladeshi defence also upped its performance in the second half and didn’t allow the Indians to have an easy run.
Just as they were looking impregnable, Brandon, in the 63rd minute, provided yet another brilliant ball into the box – after Wangjam was fouled on the right wing -- and Chhetri, despite being in the right place, headed it wide of the near post to the great disappointment of Indians fans. Ten minutes later it was Subhasish Bose who couldn’t keep his header on target off a Brandon free-kick.
India finally broke the deadlock in the 79th minute as Chhetri, making up for the previous miss, comfortably headed a brilliant Kuruniyan ball from the left into the net to put the team ahead at last. Chhetri didn’t stop there and scored another in injury time. Wangjam found him through a nice cut-back from the right and Chhetri used his right foot to good effect to seal the deal for the Blue Tigers.
With six points in seven games, they moved up to third, ahead of Afghanistan, who they will play next on June 15. If the Indians can finish third in the group, they will directly qualify for the third round of the AFC Asian Cup to be held in China in 2023.