India held to a 0-0 draw by Sri Lanka

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In their second game in the SAFF Championship 2021, India drew 0-0 with Sri Lanka at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives, on Thursday, October 7, 2021. After two games, the Blue Tigers have two points.

India had a strong start to the game, stretching the opposition with the employment of both fullbacks. Mandar Rao Dessai, who was playing left-back, had a few dangerous outings and almost found Sunil Chhetri with a hazardous cross around the quarter-hour mark. However, India’s captain was unable to connect with his header, as the ball flew inches over him and into the palms of goalie Sujan Perera.

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When Udanta Singh was played through into some space on the right-wing and looped a cross into the box in the 22nd minute, Liston Colaco had a good chance. Liston had beaten his man and had an open header, but he misjudged his timing and the ball bounced over the bar.


Moments later, it was Udanta who threaded his way into the box, past two defenders and sent the ball to Seriton. The latter looked to put in a cut-back after selling a dummy to a lunging defender but was flagged offside.

After Anirudh Thapa worked a short corner to him, Udanta had a look at the goal from just outside the box, but his shot went wide on the half-hour mark. For much of the first half, the Blue Tigers controlled the ebb and flow of the game, but the Sri Lankan defense held firm and the two sides headed into halftime even on points.

At the start of the second half, Blue Tigers manager Igor Stimac substituted Yasir Mohammad for Suresh Wangjam, and the switch appeared to have an immediate impact. The midfielder served as a pivot in the middle of the field, directing the game’s ebb and flow.

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From both sides, Liston and Udanta continued to charge at the Sri Lankan defenders, hoping to reach their captain in the center of the box. The Indians, on the other hand, were unable to find the rub of the green.

Yasir’s free-kick was met by Chhetri inside the box just under 10 minutes into the second half, but the latter’s header was pushed over the crossbar by Sujan Perera. The assistant referee had already raised his flag when Chhetri put Udanta behind the defense, setting up the winger for a one-on-one finish against Perera.

Mandar Rao Dessai sent a low cross across the face of the goal on the hour mark, and Thapa only needed to connect with it well enough to turn it in from close range, but the ball missed him. Thapa’s lone true chance was squandered when Stimac replaced him with Sahal Abdul Samad and Liston Colaco with Farukh Choudhary.

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Farukh made an immediate impression as he volleyed a loose ball home from just inside the area; his goal took a deflection before passing through the legs of the keeper. The referee had already blown the whistle for a foul against Subhasish Bose.

With 10 minutes remaining in regulation time, Stimac substituted Manvir Singh with Mandar Rao Dessai in an attempt to increase the attack. With minutes left in regulation time, Udanta played a dangerous cut-back towards Manvir, but the ball was cut out.

On the 89th minute, Chhetri generated another chance by nodding a corner towards Subhasish, who looked like he may score from close range, but the Sri Lankan defense stopped him once more.

The referee added eight minutes of additional time, and India also had a couple of chances in the dying minutes. Gurpreet hoofed a long ball upfield to Subhasish, who nodded it to Manvir’s path, but Perera came out and smothered it.

When Farukh fired in a low cut-back from the left with just one minute of injury time remaining, Sahal had a golden opportunity. Taking a touch, the midfielder attempted to chip the goalkeeper, but Perera was up to the task, leaping high and grabbing the ball.

The game was quickly called off by the referee, with the two teams locked in a tie. On Sunday, October 10, 2021, the Blue Tigers will meet Nepal at the same site, with the match starting at 9.30 p.m. IST.

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