India and Singapore share the spoils in a cagey affair

India and Singapore held each other level as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho chi Minh City, Vietnam on Saturday.

Takayuki Nishigaya’s men drew first blood from a Ikshan Fandi free-kick goal (36’) only to be cancelled by Ashique Kuruniyan equaliser (43’) as there was no separating the two sides after the two first-half goals.

The Blue Tigers started strongly, getting attacking action from Anirudh Thapa and Liston Colaco, as Thapa found Colaco through on goal but the winger’s shot was wide of the mark.

In the 15th minute, threat loomed at large inside the box for India as Ikshan Fandi was played through on goal but Anwar Ali was adept at getting the ball back with a ferocious challenge to deny a shot at goal.

Minutes later, Thapa, Ashique Kuruniyan, and Colaco linked up beautifully as Kuruniyan laid it off to Colaco who took a shot from distance but the Singapore keeper was aware and made a crucial save to keep the score level.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action in the 25th minute as Fandi leapt high to head home from a cross but Sandhu proficiently used his legs to make the save.

India were on throttle when it came to attacking, as the side were constantly in search of outlets to find the opener. Ashique Kuruniyan ran down the left and took a tight-angled shot towards the goal but Singapore keeper Joshua Pereira comfortably denied him the goal with a save.

Igor Stimac’s men had two big chances from a corner but neither could be converted into a goal. The first chance saw it being cleared on the line while the second chance was set up by skipper Chhetri to Narender Gahlot but the defender’s header was off target.

The Lions found the opener of the game through a free-kick as Kuruniyan fouled a player just outside the box. Ikshan Fandi, the free-kick taker, placed his shot that took a heavy deflection off the wall, leaving Sandhu puzzled as his diving save got a hand to it but could not keep the ball away from the line.

Singapore’s lead didn’t last long as Ashique Kurnuniyan hit back with an equaliser right at the cusp of half-time. Chhetri threaded a line-breaking pass between two defenders to find Kuruniyan, with the latter making no mistake and finding the back of the net with a lowly-taken finesse shot to restore the parity.

India continued their attacking approach in the second half and reaped more and more chances as he received the ball from a set-piece taken by Anirudh Thapa but the winger’s volleyed shot was guarded well by the Singapore keeper.

Thapa kept pulling the strings from the midfield as he found Chhetri at the far post but the captain’s powerful header was saved yet again by the custodian.

The Blue Tigers squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead after Roshan Naorem failed to capitalise from the free-kick in a dangerous position.

The closing stages of the game saw the Blue Tigers have several attempts at goal but none of them found the back of the net as Ishan Pandita had a go at the goal from a Yasir Mohammad cross but his shot flew above the crossbar.

Igor Stimac’s men will take the field next against Vietnam on Tuesday.  

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