Male, October 4
New day, same old story for Igor Stimac’s India.
Talisman Sunil Chhetri scored his 76th international goal, Bangladesh – a down-to-earth man – fired back as India started their SAFF championships campaign with a 1-1 draw here today.
Chhetri, 37, playing in the 121st game for India, struck in the 27th minute to be just one goal behind legendary Brazilian Pelé (77 goals in 92 matches). He now sits fourth on the list of top scorers among active footballers, behind Cristiano Ronaldo (111), Lionel Messi (79) and Ali Mabkhout (77) of the United Arab Emirates.
In an offensive mood from the start, India was always exposed to counterattacks. Bangladesh nearly caught them napping after Ibrahim whipped a low left cross for Motin Mia at the start of the game.
The neighbors also got a few turns, but the momentum quickly changed and India began to dominate the proceedings. Udanta Singh, who returned after missing two friendlies against Nepal, occasionally bombarded the opposing area with looping crosses.
Manvir Singh missed such a cross in the 24th, but Chhetri converted three minutes later. Pritam Kotal let loose Udanta on the right flank who cut back and a perfectly placed Chhetri smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
India survived a scare in the 40th, this time also a swift Bangladeshi counterattack. But goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a diving save on Biplo Ahmed’s shot to keep India’s lead intact.
After the break, India got a power play in the 54th when Biswanath Ghosh was sent off for knocking down Liston Colaco with only the goalkeeper in front.
But the Bangladeshis, playing under a new coach after the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, shocked India in the 74th thanks to Yasir Arafat’s diving header from a corner. – TNS, Agencies