Sunil Chhetri was the only spark in a dismal showing by the Indians as he salvaged a draw for his side against Bangladesh...
India drew 2-2 against Bangladesh at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Goa with Sunil Chhetri scoring a brace (14', 90+2') while Mithun Chowdhury (51') netted for the visitors who also benefited from an Arnab Mondal own goal in the 64th minute.
Wim Koevermans elected to start with Robin Singh upfront with Chhetri in a withdrawn role behind him. Mondal and Aiborlang Khongjee started in the heart of the defense with Denzil Franco and young Narayan Das operating as full-backs. Mehtab Hossain and Lenny Rodrigues were picked to anchor the midfield.
Lodewijk de Kruif started with veteran Jahid Hasan Ameli as the lone striker who was supported on either side by Mithun Chowdhury and Hemonta Biswas. Nasir Chowdhury and Yeasin Khan were the two centre-backs with skipper Mamunul Islam and Sohel Rana being the attacking outlets in midfield.
India had two chances within the first ten minutes with Francis Fernandes being the architect on both occasions. However, Robin Singh was ruled offside for the first opportunity and second saw Chhetri’s shot saved by Shahidul Alam in goal and fell just shy of Clifford Miranda.
The early pressure paid off as Chhetri opened the scoring in the 14th minute after being played in by Robin Singh and after evading Yeasin Khan with ease, he placed it delightfully at the far corner giving Alam no chance.
Five minutes later, Robin Singh was left unmarked from a Clifford Miranda corner but headed wide. He wasted another opportunity shortly before half-time as he failed to capitalize in an one-on-one situation with Alam reducing the angle by blocking the shot.
A minute before half-time, Sohel Rana tested Subrata Paul with a long range effort which saw the Indian custodian dived to his right to keep India’s lead intact.
It was a different story after the break as Bangladesh got a foothold in midfield with Mehtab Hossain being taken off due to an injury sustained in the first half. His replacement Rocus Lamare failed to stamp his authority in the middle of the pitch.
As Islam and Rana began to dictate play, Bangladesh got their reward in the 51st minute. A lung bursting run by Rana down the left beat Denzil Franco and his low cross in the box was dummied into the path of Mithun Chowdhury by Hemonta Biswas. Mithun made no mistake from inside the box, as he smashed the ball past Paul who was left helpless.
Bangladesh then capitalized on their dominance and this time they took the route down the right. Hemonta was the architects as he ran clear of both Francis Fernandes and Narayan Das before his teasing cross into the box was put into his own net by Arnab Mondal in the 64th minute.
The goal seemed to jolt the complacent Indians into life as Francis went clear down the right in the 74th minute but could not find the final ball into the box even though he had three Blue shirts to aim at.
In the 81st minute, a triple save by the heroic Alam, who put in a great performance, denied Alwyn George, then Chhetri on the rebound before tipping over Victorino Fernandes's header.
It was a brilliant last ditch tackle by Raihan Hasan in the dying minutes that denied Alwyn George a chance to shoot from close range after a good run and neat one-two with Chhetri.
It was India's talisman and skipper who ultimately saved their blushes. Chhetri got on the end of an Alwyn George pass before smashing a delightful shot into the roof of the net from an acute angle to equalise in added time.
Bangladesh could have and should have won the match deep into added time but for a moment of controversy. A cynical foul from Subrata Paul outside the box on Ameli, who was clean through on goal, earned him a second yellow but the referee had decided not to play advantage even though the Bangladesh striker had recovered to put the ball into the empty net.
Bangladesh will feel aggrieved as they could well have snatched victory while India will have Sunil Chhetri to thank for salvaging a draw despite a terrible defensive performance.
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