Intercontinental Cup 2019: Spirited second-half performance helps Tajikistan beat India
India vs Tajikistan Intercontinental Cup
Sunil Chhetri's first half brace was of no use as Tajikistan came back strongly in the second half and scored four past India....

Tajikistan beat India 4-2 in the opening match of Intercontinental Cup 2019 at the TransStadia Arena, Ahmedabad on Sunday.

Sunil Chhetri scored twice (3', 41') to put India in front in the first half but Tajikistan staged a strong comeback in the second half. Komron Tursunov (56'), Sheriddin Boboev (58'), Muhammadjon Rahimov (71') and Shahrom Samiev (75') were on target for the visitors.

Igor Stimac made seven changes to India’s starting XI that defeated Thailand 1-0 in the King’s Cup third-place play-off last month. Only Adil Khan, Rahul Bheke, Amarjit Singh and Anirudh Thapa retained their place in the first team. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and skipper Sunil Chhetri returned to the first XI.

Sunil Chhetri’s brilliant Panenka penalty beat the goalkeeper in the fourth minute, giving India an early lead. Sahal Abdul Samad won the ball in the centre and played a through ball towards Mandar Rao Desai on the left flank. The full-back almost immediately played it forward for Lallianzuala Chhangte who was brought down by Tajik defender Siyovush Asrorov inside the box. 

Udanta could have doubled the lead in the 11th minute when he latched onto a through ball from Chhetri. The Bengaluru winger accelerated past the last defender but a bad touch forced him wide and his strike at goal failed to test the goalkeeper. 

It was all Tajikistan after the first 15 minutes as India chose to drop deeper and focus on quick counter-attacks. The visitors came close to scoring an equaliser on a few occasions but ended up making poor choices inside the box. 

In the 41st minute, Sunil Chhetri doubled India’s lead from an excellent move. Udanta's cross from the right fell for Chhangte who laid the ball for Chhetri who took a touch and found the back of the net from close-range, catching a lacklustre Tajikistan unawares. 

Tajikistan pulled one back in the 56th minute through Komron Tursunov’s strike. Panshanbe Ehsoni sent a through ball for Tursunov who made got in behind between Mandar and Narender and slotted past Gurpreet in his second attempt. 

In the 58th minute, Sheriddin Boboev equalised for the visitors. Skipper Amirbek Juraboev sent a long ball to the right flank and Mandar's failure to intercept allowed Tursunov to cross low into the box for Boboev to convert.

Tajikistan piled more misery on the hosts as they scored their third and fourth goal in the 71st and 75th minute. Shahrom Samiev beat Adil Khan to an aerial ball and laid it off for Muhammadjon Rahimov who skipped past Narender and scored the third goal.

The fourth goal was initiated by Iskandar Dzhalilov whose long ball found Ehsoni. The latter cut in from the left flank and floated a cross for Shahrom Samiev who scored. Once again the central defensive pair of Adil and Narender was at fault.

India succumbed to a poor defeat after a good start to the game. They will now take on DPR Korea on Saturday.