2019 Asian Cup Qualification: India 1-0 Kyrgyz Republic: Sunil Chhetri's strike sends Blue Tigers atop Group A
AIFF Media
The hosts overcame stiff challenge from the Central Asian nation in Bengaluru, gain upper hand in qualifying for the continent's showpiece event...

India defeated the Kyrgyz Republic by a single goal in a Group A third round 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday.

Sunil Chhetri's (69') solitary goal was enough as the Blue Tigers maintained top spot in the group, opening up a three-point lead.

Stephen Constantine made two changes from the 2-0 friendly win over Nepal the previous week. Mohammed Rafique and Robin Singh made way for Eugeneson Lyngdoh and skipper Sunil Chhetri. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was in goal, guarded by a four-man defense featuring Narayan Das, Anas Edathodika, Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal.
 
The midfield comprised of Lyngdoh and Rowllin Borges in the center with Jackichand Singh and Halicharan Narzary out wide. Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua led the attack.

For the White Falcons , Matiash Pavel was in goal, with their 4-4-1-1 lineup spearheaded by Vitaly Lux and Mirlan Murzaev behind. Defensive stalwart Azamat Baymatov missed the match after he suffered an injury hours before kick-off.

The visitors started the game on the front foot and were having a good chunk of possession, but they failed to make it count as India were able to stem their tide of attacks.

India Kyrgyz Republic PS

Just over twenty minutes in, the hosts had a chance to take the lead when a cross-field pass released Jackichand Singh on the right whose first instinct was to play Jeje through. When that was foiled, and the ball came back to him, he tried to cut in and shoot, but produced a wasteful shot, blazing over.

Minutes later, Chhetri sliced through the visitors' midfield and fed Jackichand before making a darting run into the box. Singh managed to find a good return ball, but Chhetri could control it only well enough to set up Narzary for a shot, sadly straight at Pavel.

With 35 minutes gone, quick thinking by the skipper almost gifted India the lead. With the ball out into touch and the defense retreating, Chhetri launched in a quick throw for Jeje to run at the goalkeeper one versus one. Jeje aimed for the bottom corner but the keeper was up for it.

At the brink of half-time, the Falcons should have had the lead as poor judging of the ball released Murzaev whose pass to Lux set him up for a shot that should have seen the net bulge! Luckily for India, Jhingan dove in to clear it and the teams went back into the tunnel.

India Kyrgyzstan Asian Cup Qualifier 2017

India Kyrgyzstan Asian Cup Qualifier 2017

The second half started out brightly and the visitors had a golden chance to take the lead just minutes in. Murzaev and Lux held the ball up well and set up Israilov with a chance, but he missed the chance with a goal begging.

Shortly afterwards, it was the same man Israilov once again in the act, this time with a scorching left-footed effort from outside the box. Gurpreet was nowhere the ball, but luckily the woodwork came to his rescue and the scoreline remained goalless.

Immediately afterwards, Chhetri went in to meet substitute Holicharan Narzary's cross and from three yards away from the goal, he blazed high and wide.


Asian Cup qualifying Group A table India Kyrgyz Republic

On the hour-mark, it took some miraculous last-ditch goal-line defending from Anas and Jhingan to keep the scores level as Gurpreet was stranded after making a save from Murzaev, and Lux took a sharp volley goalwards.

Nine minutes later, India had the lead thanks to some sublime work by Sunil Chhetri. The skipper darted past the whole Kyrgyzstan side as if they weren't there and found Jeje. The Mizo lad lobbed it over the defense and Chhetri struck it into the bottom corner first time, for his 54th India goal, and third in four appearances against these opponents.

India had two gilt-edged chances to finish things for good in stoppage time, but substitute Robin Singh and Chhetri took turns to miss one-on-one chances, but thankfully the Blue Tigers held on.

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