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FIFA World Cup qualifying match: A defenceless India barely draw against spirited Bangladesh

Adil Khan header saved hosts India blushes in a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Oct 16, 2019, 08.11 AM IST
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ANI
Football---ANI
Indian players in action during a FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying match between India and Bangladesh.
By Boria Majumdar

The clock struck 7.20 in the evening. A tifo – a show of support for the home side – was getting unveiled in the Salt Lake Stadium gallery in Kolkata. The giant banner showcased the illustration of three men wearing the jerseys of three legendary Kolkata clubs – Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, and Mohammedan Sporting -- standing shoulder to shoulder, supporting the national team that was, in ten minutes, going to kick-off against Bangladesh in their 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifying match. The overwhelming Kolkata crowd in the packed stadium stood united, backing the Blue Tigers. After their inspirational performance, where they led a strong Qatar side last month to a goalless draw, expectations tonight were high.

The match began as dramatically as it was built up. In the very first minute, Bangladesh’s Mohammad Ibrahim tried to race into the box past Indian defender Rahul Bheke. Bheke knocked him down – it should have been a penalty, but the referee thought otherwise.

India coach Igor Štimac’s side resorted to the classic long ball tactic in the opening minutes. Captain Sunil Chhetri, Bheke, Manvir Singh and Udanta Singh kept the Bangladesh defence on their toes. But the Indian defence clearly seemed to be missing Sandesh Jhingan.

In the 31st minute, Adil Khan made a mess of a back pass and Bangladesh’s Biplu Ahmed latched onto it. He took a shot, but a late deflection saved the day for India. Bangladesh kept playing a physical game, but Syrian referee Masoud Tufaylieh seemed to be oblivious of the fouls made. India didn’t seem to have a game plan in place, and the less said about their defence the better. So what increasingly had become inevitable, happened -- in the final minutes of the first half, against the run of play, Saad Uddin gave Bangladesh the lead.

It was the result of a terrible miscommunication that saw India’s hero from their previous game, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, moving off his line to clear the ball, totally missing its flight and letting – almost welcoming -- Saad Uddin to knock the ball into the back of the net. Bangladesh went into halftime break their heads held high.

India looked shaky at the beginning of the second half. A school-boyish error from Gurpreet again almost gave Bangladesh their second goal. But an almost goal-line save by Adil Khan saved the blushes for India.

Sunil Chhetri was, for the most part of the match, ‘invisible’, marked as he was by Bangladeshi defenders who made it very difficult for the Indian captain to really strut his stuff. India kept getting corners and opportunities, but failed to convert them. Bangladesh’s Biplu Ahmed made a brilliant goal-line clearance and kept Bangladesh’s lead intact. Bu then in the 88th minute of the game, India equalised with a header from Adil Khan.

With India having 300-odd added seconds to rekindle their World Cup Qualifier campaign, the pressure kept mounting. In the 4th minute of added time, Chhetri laid a ball down for Manvir Singh, who had enough space but the pressure got to him and his strike was well-off target.

India took home a point, but frankly, they were lucky to survive taking home none. After Tuesday evening’s result, qualification for the next round becomes a near impossibility for India. Bangladesh, on the other hand, should be pleased by its all-claws-out performance.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)

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