Yangon: India won their second successive match in the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 when they breezed past Guam 4-0 at the Yangon Training Centre on Monday. All the four goals came in the second half. India now stay on six points from two matches.
Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring in the 49th minute and scored another, the team's fourth in the 91st minute while Clifford Miranda and Jewel Raja Shaikh scored one apiece in the 68th and the 80th minute respectively.
You travel to most countries over the World you will find NRIs flocking to the ground to support Indian National Teams across all sports. But it isn't the case in Yangon. Nevertheless, there was someone who had travelled all the way from Japan expecting her son to play. And her son did!
Tears rolled down Arata Izumi's mom's cheeks as she greeted the team from the stands. The team expressed their regards, gratitude, wished her and asked for her blessings. Mom's heart opened up more - not only for her son, but for all her teammates.
After a goalless first half, Chhetri drew the first blood four minutes after resumption. He followed Lenny Rodrigues' through pass, beat the off-side trap and slotted it past the rival goalkeeper Douglas Herrick, much to the relief of all. And then the floodgates opened.
The second one came in the 68th minute, this time, Clifford Miranda blasting home his left-footer after being set up by Mehtab Hossain.
Jewel placed the third goal to perfection after being found unmarked inside the box by substitute CK Vineeth while Chhetri scored the fourth, heading in a Mehtab Hossain corner in the 91st minute. The goal took Chhetri's tally of goals to 40, two short of India's all-time scorer, former India Captain Bhaichung Bhutia.
It was a tactical display by the Indians against Guam, who looked ultra-defensive at times. Finding it difficult to break free among the crowd of legs, the Indians preferred to use the flanks in the second half and open up the rivals.
India had their first chance in the 19th minute when Syed Rahim Nabi set up Jewel Raja Shaikh inside the box. Jewel trapped it, sidestepped Guam's central defender Travis Nicklaw but shot wide. Two minutes later, Chhetri, playing an one-two with Nabi entered the box but Herrick was up to the task.
The Indians laboured hard and halfway into the first half, they were omnipresent on the field. Guam, by the 35th minute itself, had fallen down to defend. At times, you could find all of their eleven players in their own half. Once around the box, it was hard to find the route, the jungle crowd of legs making it all the more difficult for India.
There were a series of corners which India earned but it didn't yield any result. In the 39th minute, a counter-attack saw Mehtab Hossain feed Chhetri inside the box but the fate didn't change as both teams went to the resumption with a clean slate.
Changing over, the urgency was visible right from the kick-off. In the 46th minute, Lenny set up Clifford Miranda inside the box but his powerful shot narrowly sailed over.
And almost immediately, India surged ahead. Lenny split the rival defence which saw Chhetri beat the off-side trap and with all the time in the World at his disposal, slotting it past Herrick wasn't much of a task. It was a relief, a much-needed one for India.
In the 56th minute, Mehtab found Clifford on the left flank but Jewel failed to tap Clifford's centre from inside the box. It sailed over. A minute later, a build-up from the back had Guam chasing all quarters. It ended with Lenny Rodrigues' shot missing the upright narrowly. And then in the 58th minute, Chhetri's powerful header off a Raju Gaikwad throw-in narrowly sailed over again, the third one in three consecutive minutes. The trend continued -- in the 67th minute, a Denzil floater found Jewel with only the goalkeeper to beat, he too tapped over.
But it was not for long that Guam could hold on. The goal which was very much inevitable came in the 68th minute - this time Clifford Miranda blasting it home.
Substitute CK Vineeth had, perhaps, the best chance in the second half but he couldn't find the target with only Herrick to beat with what was his first touch on the ball.
It's didn't prove costly as Jewel scored India's third goal in the 80th minute, his second one in consecutive matches. But more was in store. A trademark Chhetri header found the back of the Guam net in the first minute of the extra time - India winning 4-0.
But one needs to mention that India were not off to the perfect start. Guam, physical, seized the early initiative and threatened to frustrate the Indians in the midfield. The plot worked for them and as early as the 8th minute, Jonahan Romero's shot beat a diving Subrata Paul, hit the post and went out. It was the wake-up call for India.
India next play Myanmar in their last match on March 6.
After the win, National Coach Wim Koevermans said, "We had aimed for three points and we have achieved it."
"We could have scored more goals but it was Guam who had the first chance of the match when one of their shots hit the post and went out," he added. "That was a wake-up call for us."
"But after that, we took control and there was hardly any threat from our opponents. If you look back at the chances which we created, we could have scored more than 10 goals. But that's football," he maintained.
Referring to a question whether India can beat Myanmar, Koevermans quipped: "We are here to win. I feel every team is here to win too. It will be an interesting match for sure. But we have beaten higher-ranked teams in the recent past and we take inspiration from it."
"We gave away the ball a bit too easily at times," he maintained referring to the Guam match. "There was pressure on the players as this was a must-win match for us. We had our chances but just couldn't score," he reiterated.