Indian men’s football team’s poor run under coach Igor Stimac continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw by ten-man Bangladesh in the opening encounter of the SAFF Championship in Male, Maldives.
Sunil Chhetri gave sluggish India the lead in the 27th minute before Yeasin Arafat restored parity for Bangladesh in the 74th minute, twenty minutes after they were reduced to ten men. Defender Bishwanath Ghosh had received his marching orders for bringing down Liston Colaco who was clear on goal in the 54th minute.
India, however, couldn’t make the most of the numerical advantage as a brave Bangladesh team continued to cause India problems on the counter.
The Blue Tigers cracked as they conceded from a corner allowing Arafat a free-header from close range. At the other end, India had the occasional half-chance but could never really put the ten men under enough pressure to force a second goal.
India were sloppy from the outset. After a start that was characterised by wayward passing where India struggled to penetrate the Bangladesh low block, the Blue Tigers took the lead against the run of play when Pritam Kotal was able to release Udanta Singh behind the Bangladesh defence and the Bengaluru FC winger expertly found Chhetri with a cutback. The Indian captain was clinical in front of goal, finding the back of the net with a finish into the roof of the net.
Bangladesh should have equalised just before they went down to ten men as Rakib who was at the end of a cutback from the right flank put his effort wide with the goal right in front of him.
India didn’t create any other opening of note with eleven men and only troubled goalkeeper Ashraful Rana in the 60th minute when he produced back-to-back saves from Manvir Singh and Udanta Singh.
It was Bangladesh who threatened more thereafter and got a deserved equaliser sixteen minutes from time.
Manvir Singh then came closest for India to regain the lead when he shot from inside the box was headed over by a Bangladesh defender in the 85th minute.
Bangladesh had the chance to snatch the winner in the dying second when they won a free-kick in India’s half but the Blue Tigers dealt with the danger as the referee blew for full-time and signalled the share of spoils.
India play Sri Lanka in their next game on October 7.
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