Adil Khan saved India’s blushes with a late equaliser against Bangladesh on Tuesday in Kolkata as the Blue Tigers’ hopes of earning their first win at the ongoing 2022 Fifa World Cup Qualifiers were thwarted by a sturdy Bangladesh performance.

Khan’s 88th-minute goal helped India level the score 1-1 after Bangladesh had taken the lead through Saad Uddin in the 42nd minute.

The result does neither side any favours in terms of their position in the standings as they remain winless in Group E.

Despite looking the likelier side to score when the referee blew for full-time, India were largely lacklustre on the night.

In the opening quarter, right-back Rahul Bheke came close to conceding a penalty to the visitors twice but the referee waved away the worthy appeals on both occasions.

India’s approach early on was questionable too after what we saw in flashes against Qatar. The hosts opted for the long-ball approach instead of playing it on the turf. It seemed to be a clear tactical decision but not perhaps what the Indian fans were expecting as the men in blue were guilty of giving the ball away often.

It was not until the 35th minute that India had a clear-cut chance as Manvir Singh almost beat the keeper with a cheeky backward header from a set-piece with the opposition custodian Ashraful Rana making a sharp save.

Soon, Chhetri was dropping as deep as the centre-circle to try and dictate play and the Indian captain forced another save from Ashraful but it was a straightforward one from a header.

The goal came close to the half-time for the visitors as Bheke, who had a forgettable first half, conceded a free-kick down the left in midfield. The long cross into the box from captain Jamal Bhuyan saw Gurpreet Singh come out to gather but miss the ball completely as Saad sent the ball into the empty net. It was a poor error from the goalkeeper who put up a tremendous performance against Qatar in Doha not too long ago.

There were early chances for Bangladesh in the second half too, of India’s mistakes. Gurpreet was beaten by a cross-shot from the left flank and saw the ball hit the crossbar.

India came closest in the 61st minute when a big clearance on the goal-line saved Bangladesh as Anas Edathodika, replacing the injured Sandesh Jhingan, sent a looping header on target. With the goalkeeper beaten, great defending from Ibrahim, the winger saw the visitors hang on the lead.

India continued to pile on the pressure from there on with Sahal Abdul Samad coming closest to beat the goalkeeper with a shot from distance.

Stimac made all three changes and it was one of those substitutes Brandon Fernandes who sent the cross that helped Khan bury the header from close distance. The goal gave hope for India but nothing came from the remaining six minutes or so from the game as India’s return to Kolkata after eight years ended in disappointment.

“We did all we could, we gave everything today,” said coach Stimac after the match. “We have a bright future. We gave a lot of entertainment to the fans. It is the future, we are going to be on the offensive. We were slow at the back in the first 45 minutes, the gaps were not opening.”

“We gave away a simple goal. Congratulations to Bangladesh but we will not win if we concede silly goals. Scoring goals, obviously, is the immediate improvement needed. Better movements needed. We are still young,” he added.

India take on Afghanistan on November 14th in their next match.