India’s AFC Asian Cup qualifying campaign and their 13-match unbeaten streak ended with a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek on Tuesday.
Playing in tough conditions on a rain-soaked pitch, Constantine’s men were thoroughly outplayed on the day as Anton Zemlyanukhin and Mirlan Murzaev scored for the Central Asian outfit, while Jeje Lalpekhlua could only manage a consolation goal at the end of regulation time.
The Blue Tigers were behind after just 100 seconds as they conceded an early goal to the White Falcons. Coming in from the left, Zemlyanukhin slotted his volley perfectly into the top right corner to give the home side the lead.
Kyrgyz kept attacking at will, especially troubling Sandesh Jhingan and Lalruatthara on the right side of defence as the goalscorer Zemlyanukhin and full-back Sheratov cut through at will.
The visitors’ midfield left much to be desired as Rowllin Borges and Mohammed Rafique were bypassed completely at times, with the former giving the ball away far too often. Balwant Singh poked the ball into the net, only for the referee to rule it out for offside after Borges’ free-kick had struck the post.
That was to be India’s only noteworthy chance till the 88th minute. Constantine did bring on Anirudh Thapa, Jerry Lalrinzuala and Len Doungel in the second half, but it hardly made a difference as skipper Gurpreet Sandhu was the only one who kept India in the match.
It was only a matter of time before Kyrgyz got their second in the 73rd minute as Mirlan Murzaev curled the ball into the far-right corner after being played in by Zemlyanukhin, giving India’s custodian no chance.
Narzary’s cross at the fag end of the match found Jeje, who made no mistake with his header and slotted it past Pavel Matiash in the Kyrgyz goal. That was as good as it got for India as they lost a match after nearly two years.
The Asian Cup draw is up next and it will be interesting to see the effects of this loss on India’s ranking.