A defensively solid Indian team held China to a 0-0 draw in an international friendly match at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium on Saturday.
Stephen Constantine made just one change in the Indian starting XI from their last outing in the Intercontinental Cup final against Kenya. Narayan Das replaced Anas Edathodika in defence and Subhashis Bose was slotted alongside skipper Sandesh Jhingan.
Marcello Lippi lined up his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to the visitors. They were in complete control of the game right from the beginning and kept the Indian defenders on their toes. Constantine’s men practically defended with six men as Thapa and Halder were forced to help out in the defensive third of the field.
India had their first major chance of the match in the 13th minute. Sunil Chhetri squared a pass from the edge of the box to Pronay Halder who in turn forwarded the ball to Anirudh Thapa. The Chennaiyin midfielder found Pritam Kotal’s overlapping run from the right side. Kotal’s powerful right-footer was brilliantly kept away by Chinese custodian Yan Junling.
Sunil Chhetri once again came close to breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute from Anirudh Thapa’s free-kick. Thapa curled the ball into the box but Chhetri's first-time attempt flew over the crossbar.
China piled up the pressure and could have scored the opening goal of the match in the 24th minute of the match when Gao Lin received the ball inside the box. His shot at goal from 12-yards was brilliantly saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with his outstretched legs.
Marcello Lippi introduced three new players at the beginning of the second half as China went all guns blazing.
Xiao Zhi's low cross into the box from the right flank led Lin to opt for a first-time effort at goal. Luckily for the visitors, the shot hit the first post and went out.
India found space to counter-attack but their finishing left a lot to desire. Halicharan won a ball in the Chinese half and went released Udanta Singh. The Bengaluru FC winger went for goal with a long-range attempt that flew above the crossbar.
Constantine brought in Anas Edathodika and Nikhil Poojary at the hour mark in place of Narayan Das and Udanta respectively.
China were denied by the post again when Wu Lei struck a powerful shot from inside the box.
Substitute Farukh Choudhary almost pulled off a historic win for India in the 93rd minute. From Nikhil Poojary’s diagonal ball into the box, Farukh's effort to beat the goalie with a close-range effort failed.
China PR are now winless in three consecutive matches. They have just picked up two wins in seven matches in 2018 so far. India, on the other hand, will come back home after a proud display.