India came up with a strong second half display, to register their second win on the trot and stay in contention to qualify for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup...
India brushed aside the challenge of Guam by a scoreline of 4-0, in an AFC Challenge Cup qualifier at the Youth Training Centre, Yangon, Myanmar.
The Blue Tigers were completely off-colour in the first half, but came out all guns blazing in the second half, with Sunil Chhetri scoring a brace, one in the 49th minute, and the second in the first minute of injury time. Clifford Miranda in the 68th minute and Jewel Raja in the 80th minute, helped themselves to a goal each.
India made a couple of changes from the side that started against Chinese Taipei, with Syed Rahim Nabi and Denzil Franco replacing Nirmal Chettri and Francis Fernandes.
The Matao meanwhile had United Sikkim’s John Landa Matkin in midfield, while Ryan Guy and Jason Cunliffe providing the goal-threat from midfield, in a 3-5-2 formation.
Wim Koevermans’ side, who scraped past Chinese Taipei with a scoreline of 2-1, found the going tough against Guam in the first half. Especially in the first 20 minutes, the side showed no spark whatsoever in attack, with the Matao having a surprisingly easy day at the back.
Sunil Chhetri, who continued to plough a lone furrow upfront, was the first player to try his luck with a shot that went just over the bar from a distance of 25 yards, in the 21st minute.
While the Blue Tigers enjoyed good possession in midfield, they failed to make it count in the attacking third, with Chhetri being the lone Indian who created any sort of problems for Gary White’s team.
India's defense was hardly troubled by Guam...
Matkin then had a glorious chance to put his side in the lead, when against the run of play, he was released into a one-on-one situation against Subrata Paul. However the United Sikkim player failed to keep his composure, and shot wide.
The Indian captain then almost put the Blue Tigers ahead, but his powerful shot from 26 yards was met by an equally impressive save by Doug Herrick in goal.
The Matao continued to sit deep and frustrate India for the rest of the half, as the Blue Tigers acutely felt the lack of another striker alongside Chhetri, with the two teams going into half-time, tied at 0-0.
In a bid to spark a response in the second half, Nabi was replaced by Francisc Fernandes, and the affect was immediate, as Sunil Chhetri put the Indians ahead in the 49th minute. A pass in the box saw the Churchill Brothers striker up against the Guam custodian in a one-on-one situation. The forward made no mistake in slotting the ball home with his left leg and rolled away in celebration, even as Guam’s players complained of a possible offside against Chhetri.
The Blue Tigers did not rest on their laurels, and pressed ahead on the look-out for another couple of goals, to help improve their goal-difference. They showed far more urgency than they did in the first half, and the addition of the more attack minded Arata Izumi in place of Lenny Fernandes definitely helped matters.
In the 68th minute, it was Clifford Miranda who doubled the lead, as he ran onto a ball on the left edge of the penalty box, and unleashed a terrific shot, which left Herrick in Guam’s goal, helpless.
The Dempo SC player was soon replaced by C.K Vineeth, as Koevermans looked to freshen up things.
While Guam did make a couple of opportunities for themselves on the counter, it was India that added a third goal in the 80th minute, as Francis Fernandes found Jewel Raja with a clever pass and the Mohun Bagan midfielder scored his second goal in two games, with a powerful drive from 26 yards out.
A 91st minute header by Chhetri from a Mehtab Hussain corner kick was like a cherry on the cake, as India rounded up a strong second half performance, with a fourth goal.
The loss means Matao’s slender hopes of qualification are now over, while India take on Myanmar on 6th March, with both teams in the hunt for the automatic qualification berth.
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