India go down to Belarus in international friendly

The Indian men’s football team suffered a 0-3 loss at the hands of higher-ranked Belarus in an international friendly match at the Bahrain National stadium.

India managed to keep Belarus at bay in the first half with a solid defensive performance but the European side showed their class in the second half, scoring three fine goals and winning the encounter.

Artsem Bykau (47’), Andrey Solovei (69’) and Valery Gromyko (90+2’) were the goalscorers for Belarus who are ranked ten places above India in the Fifa rankings.

Igor Stimac started the game with a back three comprising Sandesh Jhingan, Anwari Ali and debutant Ruivah Hormipam with Seriton Fernandes and Akash Mishra operating as wing backs.

Anirudh Thapa and Brandon Fernandes formed the midfield pivot with Roshan Naorem Singh, Suhair VP and Manvir Singh in a three-pronged attack.

The Europeans started on the front foot but India were content with absorbing the early pressure and finding their feet in the match.

The Blue Tigers created their first opening in the 11th minute when Thapa found Manvir’s run behind the Belarus defence. However, the Belarus centre-back did well to track his run. Manvir eventually ended up fouling the centre-back inside the box as India couldn’t profit.

However, the first half was all about India’s defensive organisation as they thwarted Belarus’ efforts despite the Europeans enjoying large spells of possession. They struggled to break down India who were quick to close down any gaps.

In the 39th minute, Manvir once again sneaked behind the Belarus defence to get on the end of a through ball but once again Belarus managed to get men back and Manvir could not go all the way.

India managed to get to half-time without having too many troubles in the first half.

Stimac tweaked his formation in the second half to give more players minutes on the field bringing on Yasir Mohammed for Seriton.

But Belarus stepped up their tempo in the second half and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to produce a good save to deny Shauchenka Hleb in the 47th minute.

However, he was helpless two minutes later when Bykau converted from close range as Belarus broke India’s resistance.

Stimac threw on Aniket Jadhav for Suhair on the hour mark but India couldn’t stop Belarus from scoring again in the 69th minute when Salavei tapped home a pinpoint cross from the left.

India were a bit more adventurous after conceding a second goal and tried to string together some good moves but the Blue Tigers couldn’t find the killer pass.

Having thrown numbers forward, India were vulnerable to Belarus counter-attacks and they added a third goal in stoppage time through Valery as Belarus ran out comfortable winners in the end.

This was India’s second defeat on the tour to Bahrain after the 1-2 loss to the home side on Wednesday but Stimac will take plenty of positives from the two matches to take into the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in June.

The Blue Tigers begin their third round of AFC Asian Cup qualification round against Cambodia on June 8 at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata.

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