India beat Myanmar by a last-gasp Sunil Chhetri goal in order to win the opening match of their 2019 AFC Asian Cup campaign as they came away with three points from the Thuwanna Stadium in Yangon.
Stephen Constantine made four changes to the side that started the 3-2 win over Cambodia in an international friendly last week. Jeje Lalpekhlua, Jackichand Singh, Narayan Das and Sandesh Jhingan were all drafted into the starting eleven in the place of Daniel Lalhlimpuia, CK Vineeth, Fulganco Cardozo and Arnab Mondal.
Myanmar started the better of the two sides as they attacked from the word ‘go’ pressing India high up the pitch and tried to get at the visitors with their pacy wingers running amok down the flanks.
The best chance of the first half, fell to Jackichand Singh who just had to get the faintest of touches to Robin Singh’s low cross but skied over with the goal gaping. The Manipuri winger had another good chance when the ball fell to him in the box but could not make it count, shooting straight at the keeper.
The second half started in the same vein as the first with the home team attacking the Indian goal with verve, as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood firm between the sticks. Constantine then brought on Udanta Singh for his sixth international cap and this change almost paid off.
Udanta sped into the box and was brought down by an opposition defender, but the referee did not point to the spot as India pushed for that crucial goal. The Indian manager made his second change when he brought on Chennai City’s Dhanpal Ganesh in place of the ineffective Rowllin Borges.
India’s last roll of dice came with the substitution of Jackichand Singh with winger Halicharan Narzary coming on for the Manipuri.
The visitors had the last laugh however as Udanta Singh broke free of the Myanmar defence, and then squared it to Sunil Chhetri, who made no mistake in arrowing the ball into the far corner for his 53rd international goal.
With this, the Blue Tigers started their campaign with a win and are well on their way to qualifying for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.