The Indian men’s football team recorded its first win in an overseas international friendly since 2005 as they beat Cambodia 3-2 at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, with Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua and Sandesh Jhingan scoring the goals.
The win coming five days prior to their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers against Myanmar, it should give the team a lot of confidence going into the opener and some much-needed ranking points as well.
The flip side is that their performance wasn’t exactly up to scratch, as the home team ran riot in the first half, attacking the Indians at will. The Blue Tigers could very well have conceded four or five goals, had the visitors’ shooting not been wayward. It must also be kept in mind that the national team was playing a match after a gap of almost
Stephen Constantine used his full quota of six substitutes, as 17 players saw game-time and two, Anas Edathodika and Milan Singh made their international debuts after impressing in both the Indian Super League as well as the I-League.
Let’s take a look at how the players fared on a scale of 1 to 10:
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu – 6
Captain on the day and will be disappointed to concede two goals. The Punjabi stopper with Europa League experience needs to work with his defence in cutting out errors like the one that led to the first goal. Also missed a routine catch at the end of the first half, flapping at a cross.
On the bright side, Sandhu held firm as India were outplayed in the first half hour, coming out to deny star striker Chan Vathanaka after the latter had beaten the backline. Also made a good low save to his left to keep a Vathanaka freekick out and preserve India’s lead.
Pritam Kotal – 4
His defending left a lot to be desired as he left huge spaces behind him which the opposition wingers gleefully exploited. Tried to go on the overlap and did manage to deliver a couple of crosses but the overall performance was not good enough from the right-back.
Could be suffering from a bit of complacency, considering that he is the only specialist right-back in the side. Almost scored an own goal towards the end of the first half, while defending a corner.
Arnab Mondal – 3
Looked laboured and unfit. His first half performance was very unconvincing as he partnered Anas at this level for the first time. Did not read the game at all and was partly culpable for the first goal backing off the opposition player, gifting him enough time to send a low cross in. Will be very surprising if Constantine starts with him against Myanmar.
Coming off a lengthy injury lay-off and was below par. Hooked off for Jhingan at the start of the second half.
Anas Edathodika – 5
The only member of the back four to really come out with any credit in the first half. As a debutant, nerves may have crept in but the centre-back from Kerala put in a decent shift and made some robust tackles and important clearances. Will benefit from this experience and should start the next game.
Could have done better for the second half but alongside Jhingan, showed that he should be one of the mainstays of the team in the future.
Fulganco Cardozo – 4
The Goan centre-back by trade was played on the left and he had a torrid time, much like his counterpart Kotal. Was beaten too often, way too easily and almost gave away a penalty after tripping Vathanaka. Lucky to escape as the referee was right in position but did not award a spot-kick after replays showed that there was some contact.
Rowllin Borges – 5
Had a shocker of a first half as the midfield proved incapable of stemming Cambodia’s attack and a large part of that is down to Rowllin losing the ball multiple times, unable to make simple passes and giving away fouls.
Improved immeasurably after the break as Constantine sought some stability in midfield but the big question is whether last year’s AIFF Emerging Player of the Year can combine well with..
Eugeneson Lyngdoh – 6
Immense pressure on the Bengaluru midfielder coming into this match as Eugene has been out of form in the I-League of late, and needed to put in a decent shift to drive the naysayers away.
Lost some battles in midfield but was tenacious and upped his game in the second half including a couple of dangerous set-piece deliveries as well as corners for the first and third goals. Also played a lovely through ball for Robin Singh who couldn’t apply the finishing touches. Job well done but was bizarrely substituted just as he looked menacing in the second half.
Sunil Chhetri – 6
Made some runs in the first half as he looked to drop deep to combat Cambodia’s siege of attacks. The Bengaluru skipper also got his name on the scoresheet as the rival custodian spilt a routine corner which Chhetri gleefully put away into an empty net. Seemed frustrated at times at the team’s wastefulness with the ball.
CK Vineeth – 4
Substituted as early as the 35th minute and was the scapegoat for a lacklustre first-half performance from the team as a whole. Did attempt a couple of crosses which were overhit and tried to run down the right and hook up with Kotal. Replaced by Jackichand Singh and not happy at being taken off so early.
Daniel Lalhlimpuia – 4
Taken off for Jeje Lalpekhlua after the first 45, the Bengaluru FC youngster barely saw the ball in only his second appearance for the senior team. Was largely anonymous but this was more of a learning experience for the Mizo forward which may prove invaluable in the long-run.
Robin Singh – 4
A first start after a year of injury troubles, Robin was understandably keen to impress but tonight just wasn’t his night. Missed a couple of good chances, including a one-on-one while being put through on goal by Lyngdoh. Remains a key figure for the team with his physical presence up front. Substituted for Udanta Singh on 74 minutes.
Jackichand Singh – 5 (Sub - 35)
A decent run-out at the expense of Vineeth and the Manipuri winger showed lovely feet for Jeje’s goal, going past two defenders. Didn’t do any harm to his chances of starting against Myanmar but didn’t turn the tide of the game too drastically as well.
Sandesh Jhingan – 6 (Sub - 46)
Another one of those players not enjoying a stellar domestic campaign but did well, considering the circumstances. The combination of Jhingan and Edathodika held firm and the centre-back also scored a goal to round off a decent display.
Jeje Lalpekhlua – 7 (Sub - 46)
Made the difference after coming on. Showed attacking intent after coming on and pressed from the front. Put his first chance away clinically. Got into attacking areas and may start on the 28th.
Mohammed Rafique – 5 (Sub - 63)
Brought on for Eugene, he kept things simple in the middle of the park.
Udanta Singh – N/A (Sub - 74)
Came on late for Robin Singh. Competition for places are intense but the speedy youngster could make for an impact sub this qualification campaign.
Milan Singh – N/A (Sub - 89)
Made a deserved debut with a minute to go. The most improved player across ISL 2016 and I-League 2017. One can’t help wondering whether the Manipuri would have made a difference to the first half, had he started?