Sandesh Jhingan was a rock at the back for India against China

AIFF Media
Kerala Blasters defender Sandesh Jhingan was handed India's captaincy against China and he has passed the test with flying colours...

World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi would have seen their friendly against India as an ideal opportunity for his misfiring strikers to get some much-needed goals. 

The former Juventus boss had seen his side pick up just two wins in their last six matches and the run included heavy defeats against Wales and the Czech Republic. India were several spots below the Red Dragons in the FIFA Rankings and ideally, easy fodder for them. Except the match did not turn out the way he wanted at all. 

The Succesful Lockdown

The friendly ended in a stalemate and to add insult to injury, China had gone without scoring for the third consecutive match. Between the Chinese forwards and the Indian goal stood a resilient Indian defence and a pair of gloves that stupendously initiated a complete lockdown of the goal.

Kerala Blasters Sandesh Jhingan

There was luck involved as well. The Red Dragons struck the bar twice in the second half. But that should not take anything away from the way Stephen Constantine's players projected a united front on the field. 

There were worrying moments aplenty for the Blue Tigers. India's attack and midfield were struggling to hold to the ball for long periods and when they did get the ball, they often failed to string more than three passes together. But despite all of it, they managed to recover and end the game with a clean sheet to their name. 

The Rock Moulded in Kerala

Sandesh Jhingan, handed the captain's arm-band, showed leadership quality with the organisation of his defence, often very vocal, coming to the fore. He cleared dangerous balls into the box and made last-ditch tackles.

Anas Edathodika's absence in the first-team did raise eyebrows but all Subhasish Bose had to do was lend support to Jhingan who seemed like a man on a mission on the field.

India China

“Sandesh Jhingan is a fighter, puts his body on the line. He gave everything today. All the boys tried very hard. I am very happy,” Constantine was all praise for his new skipper after the match. 

It wasn't a one-man army at the back of course. Jhingan got his teammates to respond to him as well. They took inspiration from the way he led the defence. "We knew if we defend well, it is one of our strengths, we were going to get chances up front. I think it was an even game. They got chances, we got chances as well. I am really proud of the team, the way we defended and the way we played. That passion…that is what I want to see from the team. The commitment we showed was second to none," he said. 

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu played one of the best matches of his career against China. He punched, saved with his gloves, blocked with his legs and claimed any cross that came near him. 

The CounterPunch - What if...?

As the match progressed into the final minutes, India did manage to string together several counter-attacks. 

China vs India 2018

Yes, India were defensive and set up to counter-attack. But this was a match that demanded resilience and grit and they delivered. Defending isn't easy but it is also worth noting that India created chances and could have snatched this game away from the hosts. So simply put, credit where it is due. 

After the sheer hard work put in by Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Singh at the back, Nikhil Poojary's through-ball to Farukh Chowdhury in added time had placed the striker in a perfect position to score. What if it had gone in?


Follow Nisanth V Easwar on  Twitter - @niktheblue94