As Sunil Chhetri diverted Udanta’s Singh ball into the far corner of Myanmar’s net, the reaction from the majority watching back home on DD Sports was that of palpable excitement after almost having to settle for a draw after a tense 90 minutes.
Stephen Constantine had earlier started with Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sunil Chhetri and Jackichand Singh opting for pace up front combined with the hold-up ability of Robin Singh. In defence, the pair of Anas Edathodika, starting only his second game in Indian colours and the towering Sandesh Jhingan embarked on a partnership which holds a lot of promise for years to come.
The Blue Tigers weren’t the best team on show throughout the 90 minutes as Myanmar’s pacy attackers exposed the midfield time and again. Yet, they did just enough to hold on and hit the home team with a sucker punch at the end of the match.
Let’s take a look at how the players fared in their 1-0 win at the Thuwanna stadium in Yangon.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu - 6
Came off his line a lot in a bid to sweep up any loose ball against a fast Myanmar frontline. Was generally solid when called upon. Kept a clean sheet without much hassle and will look to establish a connection with the centre-back combination in front of him. Also launched it long to try and kick-start attacks.
Pritam Kotal - 5
Most of the home team’s attacks were launched down the left as the dangerous Kyaw Ko Ko harried and hassled Kotal all evening long. Didn’t do a great job of closing down as the White Angels found a way into the box time and again, forcing Anas and Jhingan to cover for him. Wasn’t involved with much in an attacking sense but that can be put down to the fact that he hardly received any reinforcement from Jackichand Singh.
Anas Edathodika - 7
Cleared the ball on at least seven different occasions as the man from Kerala was a rock at the back. The Mohun Bagan centreback stood tall on the day, unfazed by the pace of his opponents and stuck to his basics well. Deserved his clean sheet with some no-nonsense defending.
Sandesh Jhingan - 6
The ex-Bengaluru man was teaming up with Anas for the first time in national colours and boy, did he do well. Hasn’t really been in form this I-League season but wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Pulled Ko Ko back on the stroke of half-time and was shown a yellow card. Apart from the minor blip, performed admirably on the day.
Narayan Das - 6
The left-back acquitted himself well, and ran tirelessly for the cause. Defended staunchly and was also the only one of the full-backs to try and cross the ball in. Did put some interesting deliveries in while doing his job defensively. Has a lot of competition for that slot but should retain his place on the evidence of this match.
Rowllin Borges - 4
One half of a highly disappointing midfield performance, as the Northeast man, so often accustomed to playing the destroyer’s role, was completely bypassed. Similar to the Cambodia match, was sloppy in possession and ceded the midfield to the opposition who put the Indian goal under considerable pressure early on. Substituted for Dhanpal Ganesh late on, and Constantine will find it harder to justify Borges’ inclusion should this form continue.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh - 4
A withdrawn role in midfield just isn’t working out for the Bengaluru FC man, known to play in a much advanced position. Struggled to exert any influence in the midfield and work alongside Rowllin, in cutting out Myanmar’s foray into India’s defensive zones. A poor season shows no signs of a turnaround and will also find it tough to retain a starting berth. Received a yellow for a poor tackle.
Jackichand Singh - 3
It just wasn’t the Manipuri winger’s evening as he had a game to forget. Playing on the right, saw a lot of ball but the end-product was awful. Had the first half’s best two chances and with the ball begging to be prodded in from a millimetre out, managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of skying it. Was taken off for Holicharan Narzary towards the end of the game and will be glad that Chhetri did strike late on.
Jeje Lalpekhlua - 6
Took a shot early on and always looked to conjure up stuff like one-twos or a turn-and-shoot when he received the ball. Also, willing to bring his teammates into the game and sent a wonderful diagonal ball to Udanta with seconds left on the clock, resulting in the all-important goal. Will be very important to the team’s hopes this campaign.
Sunil Chhetri - 7
Mr Fantastic and scored his 53rd international goal with an excellent placed finish. That the finish came at the end of a frantic campaign speaks volumes about his quality. Booked for protesting and had a shot saved by the Myanmar keeper but the Bengaluru FC skipper kept at it and was rewarded when he finished off a move that he had started in his own half. A timely reminder about his abilities if one was ever needed and at 32, his services to the team are invaluable.
Robin Singh - 4
Did not offer that aerial threat that team India were looking for, and generally disappointing all evening. Tasked with leading the line and made a couple of horrible passes when through on goal. Still regaining peak form and fitness after a year out of the game but should have had an assist, had Jackie not been so profligate. Was eventually taken off for Udanta Singh, which proved to be a match-winning substitution.
Udanta Singh - 6 (Sub: 63 minutes)
The youngster has been Bengaluru’s best player all season long and it showed as he made an impact off the bench. Took a shot which was straight at the keeper but his best contribution came in the form of a blistering run on the right and then the presence of mind to cut it back for an onrushing Chhetri. Lots of promise in only his sixth appearance at this level.
Dhanpal Ganesh - N/A (Sub: 79 minutes)
The Chennai City man came on for Rowllin Borges and possesses the skillset to duel it out in midfield. Could earn a start next time.
Holicharan Narzary - N/A (Sub: 88 minutes)
Played the last minutes of regulation time after coming on in a like-for-like substitution for Jacki.
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