AFC Asian Cup| Second-half brace by Balwant Singh helps India overcome lacklustre Macau

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AFC Asian Cup| Second-half brace by Balwant Singh helps India overcome lacklustre Macau

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SportsCafe Desk


India extended their unbeaten streak to 11 games and now sit atop the group stepping closer to qualification as they overcame a resilient Macau side, thanks to two second-half goals by substitute Balwant Singh. They now host Macau and Myanmar before travelling to Kyrgyzstan to end the group stage.

India were playing their third Asian Cup qualifier group stage game at the Estádio Campo Desportivo and after seeing off opponents like Mauritius and Kyrgyzstan in the previous two games, coach Stephen Constantine definitely had a comfortable win in his mind against Macau, who were yet to win a single game in the group.

He made three changes to the side that faced Saint Kitts and Nevis in a friendly last month as the crowd saw Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu taking their places ahead replacing Balwant Singh, Jackichand Singh and Subrata Pal.

Macau are the lowest ranked team in India’s group for a reason and they knew it quite well. They went into the game with no intent of attacking and had all their men behind the ball from the beginning. The deep defensive side allowed India to attack and counter attack time and again but to no avail and as Macau’s congested backline hardly gave the Blue Tigers a breathing pace.

Despite being dominant throughout the first half, India could hardly manage to get a shot on target with their best chance coming in the 35th minute when midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh saw his fantastic long-range effort hit the cross bar. It fell kindly to India and the immeidate chance went begging with forward Holicharan Narzary shooting it straight to the keeper.

Macau kept defending deep leaving India to exploit space on their flanks, which kept India’s full-backs Kotal and Narayan Das in the offensive for most of the game as they virtually played the winger’s role. However, Jeje found himself in the box mostly alone with neither Chhetri nor Udanta making runs behind him.

Narzary and Udanta, who rely heavily on pace and against a deep defending side, looked toothless. Constantine brought on Balwant Singh in place of Lyngdoh as India tried to break Macau’s defence by bombarding crosses through the full-backs. And in the 52 minute, from a Narayan Das’ cross, Singh managed to squeeze between two defenders and head the ball in.

The gridlock was broken and Macau hardly had the firepower up front to level the score. They kept their negative football intact and if not for a horrible mix-up between their defence and goalkeeper in the 82 minute, the score could have stayed the same. A clinical Singh didn’t miss the opportunity this time taking his goal tally to three in as many games.

India now stretch their unbeaten streak to 11 games as they sit comfortably on the top of Group A with 9 points. They host Macau and Myanmar next before making a tricky trip to Kyrgyzstan.

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