BENGALURU: Skipper Sunil Chhetri’s 69th minute goal was all India needed to beat Kyrgyz Republic in their second Group A game of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification on Tuesday at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Chhetri, who also scored the winner against Myanmar a few months back, finished off after Jeje Lalpekhlua set him up, with a shot that caught Kyrgyz goalie Matiash Pavel off guard.
The visitors were the better side in the game of rare clear cut chances, but the hosts managed to convert their major chance to ensure victory.
India now has 6 points from their opening two fixtures followed by Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic who are respectively on three points. However, Myanmar is on second place due to their better goal average.
Kyrgyz Republic were the better of the two sides in the opening half pinning India to their area with their possessive play.
Fifteen minutes into the game, Jeje saw his header from a Jackichand Singh pass missed target narrowly in one of the few chances that came the way of India in the first half.
At the other end, Maier Viktor was a delight to watch and his partnership with Lux Vitalji gave the Indian defense some tough moments. Around the half hour mark Viktor fired a low shot that went wide in his side’s best attempt at goal of the first half.
Three minutes before the interval, the home side had a good chance to score after Rowllin Borges had squared to Eugeneson Lyngdoh, but the latter fired wide to the chagrin of the crowd.
Kyrgyz Republic resumed with the same tempo and few minutes into the second half were denied by India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who palmed away Mirlan Murzaev’s goal-bound drive to a thunderous applause from the Indian fans at the stadium.
Whilst Kyrgyz Republic had the upperhand in terms of possession it was India who looked dangerous on the play.
Midway through the half, India kept the Kyrgyz Republic defense boiling with Chhetri and Jeje leading the raids upfront.
As the match progressed, India kept pushing ahead and during one of such raids upfront, Chhetri made a superb run from his half and overcame three Kyrgyz defenders before playing a one-two with Jeje that allowed Chhetri to shot into the left corner of the net to break the deadlock.
Having taken the lead, India got a much needed confidence boost and they increased their pressure upfront dominating the game entirely.
Despite creating numerous scoring opportunities in the later stages, it was lack of finishing that prevented a bigger scoreline for the Blue Tigers.
Kyrgyz Republic, on the other hand, had their share of the exchanges but failed to break through the India defense which appeared to be resolute infront of everything Kyrgyz front threw at them, as the game ended 1-0 in India’s favour.
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (GK), Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Anas Edathodika, Rowllin Borges (Md. Rafique 65′), Jackichand Singh (Bikash Jairu 74′), Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Halicharan Narzary, Sunil Chhetri (C), Jeje Lalpekhlua (Robin Singh 79′)