Asian Cup Qualifier | Sunil Chhetri scores historic goal in Indian win

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India got off to the perfect start in the Asian Cup Qualifiers through Sunil Chhetri who scored in injury time to secure a first win over Myanmar in 64 years. The Indian team were under pressure for most parts in the game but thanks to the heroics of Gurpreet Sandhu managed to keep a clean sheet.

India made four changes to the team that beat Cambodia 3-2. Arnab Mondal, Fulganco Cardozo, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, and CK Vineeth made way for Narayan Das, Sandesh Jhingan, Jackichand Singh, and Jeje Lalpekhlua as India started their Asian Cup Qualification campaign against Myanmar in the Thuwunna Stadium. Stephen Constantine picked a 4-2-3-1 formation with Robin Singh operating as the lone striker.

It was the home side who got off to a good start putting the Indian defense under some serious pressure with only the quick thinking of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu keeping India on level terms. However, after seeing off the early pressure, it was India who created the first clear-cut chance just before the half-hour mark. Myanmar goalkeeper, Thiha Si Thu, completely miscued a cross from the left wing that fell for Jackichand. But the East Bengal player was unable to bring his lob down in time. Jackichand then had another great chance to rectify his mistake when he was played in by Robin Singh from the left wing but yet again the 25-year-old failed to get a telling touch on the ball.

Myanmar recovered quickly and created a chance of their own Aung Thu’s curling effort took a  deflection that made it easy for Sandhu to gather the ball. A few minutes later Thu was at it again, from the dead ball situation, but Sandhu was there to deny him again. India were struggling to hold on to the ball for a consistent period as Borges and Lyngdoh gave the ball away too easily to have any sort of control on the game. India went in for the half-time interval as the happier side based on the kind of chances they had created.

Myanmar started the second half just as they had in the first by keeping the ball for long periods and closing down their Indian counterparts as soon as possession was lost. But even with the lion’s share of possession, they were struggling to create any clear-cut chances. 10 minutes into the second half Myanmar created their best chance when Sandhu was unable to punch a corner away but Yan Aung Kyaw’s shot was just over the bar.

Constantine brought on Udanta Singh in place of Robin Singh to put some pressure on the Myanmar backline. India had a shout for a penalty turned away by the referee when Udanta was brought down in the box after being played in by Chhetri. With 10 minutes to go, Rowlin Borges made way for Dhanpal Ganesh as Constantine started suring up his defense to take a valuable away point.

But even Constantine could not have envisioned what was going to happen next. India made sure that they would not be denied the goal that they had been threatening on the counter. Substitute Udanta made a long bursting run down the right wing before putting the ball on the plate for Sunil Chhetri who had made a late run into the box. Chhetri put the ball past the Myanmar keeper to give India the lead in injury time to secure a first win in Myanmar in 64 years.

India will face Kyrgyzstan in their next match in June and are now the favorites to qualify from the group. 

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