Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bangladesh vs India: Chhetri steps up as India secure the first step for Asia Cup qualification

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After the loss to Qatar, India were expected to put in maximum effort to secure the Asia Cup berth. Getting 6 points in the next two games had become a necessity in the plan of action. To Igor Stimac’s delight, India emerged with a Sunil Chhetri-inspired victory on the evening against a defensively vigilant Bangladesh. The brace scored by the legend put him on 74 international goals, three ahead of Lionel Messi.

Stimac was expected to field an offensive lineup, given that Bangladesh were going to play with a defensive line deep into their own half. The Croatian went for another astounding starting formation; India had never operated in a 3-5-2 before this fixture. Chhetri was accompanied by Manvir as his strike partner. Bipin and Udanta were deployed as the left and right wingbacks respectively. The midfield was occupied by the trio of Brandon Fernandes, Suraj Singh, and Glan Martins. The back 3 featured Subashish Bose and Chinglesana Singh alongside Sandesh Jhingan; no change between the sticks.

The game did not seem to go well for India for most parts, as Bangladesh didn’t experience much threat from their opponents down the middle. Although the Blue Tigers dominated the possession statistics, they could not capitalize upon the progression when they got the ball in the final third. Their impatient display caused hindrances in attacks, which was a sign of relief for Bangladesh. However, it was short-lived as Chhetri converted from Ashique’s cross, before adding to his tally by finding the back of the net from Suraj’s cut-back in injury time.

Brandon Fernandes brought impact in midfield (photo via Twitter – Indian Football Team)

The game had some mesmerizing takeaways for the Indian audience, which included another strong all-around performance from Glan Martins in midfield. The introduction of Brandon Fernandes for this fixture proved to be a key factor in India’s incisive play in some spells. The FC Goa attacking midfielder showcased glimpses of creative brilliance throughout the duration of the match. After this victory, the Blue Tigers need another such result to ensure their participation in the Asia Cup in 2023.

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