Kathmandu: An injury-time goal by captain Sunil Chhetri saved India from embarrassment as they played out a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh in their second group match of the SAFF Football Championships on Tuesday.
Defending champions India, who had scraped past Pakistan 1-0 in their campaign opener thanks to an own goal by their rival skipper, dished out another disappointing show at the Halchowk Stadium. Wim Koevermans' men were on the verge of an embarrassing defeat after Atiqur Rahman Meshu had put Bangladesh ahead in the 82nd minute before Chhetri equalised in the 94th minute with the last kick of the match.
Chhetri, who was off colour all through the match, scored from a free-kick to give India one point and four from two outings. They play hosts Nepal on Thursday. Kovermans tried all his tricks but without success. He made three changes in the second half, bringing in Dawson Fernandes, Arata Izumi and Robin Singh in place of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Lenny Rodrigues and Francis Fernandes respectively but a goal eluded his side till the fourth and final minute of the added time.
Three Indians -- Sunil Chhetri, Arnab Mondal and Nirmal Chhetri -- were also shown yellow cards by the referee. India were better side in the first half as Koevermans' boys kept the proceedings under control early on. They kept the ball, switched flanks and pressed for a early goal. It resulted in a flurry of chances which went abegging.
The first chance came in the eighth minute when an overlapping Nirmal Chettri found Francis Fernandes on the right. Francis, who was impressive with his timely runs, sped past Waly Faisal and essayed a centre but an unmarked Chhetri's volley just went over.
The very next minute, another of Chhetri's efforts went off the mark and then Jewel Raja failed to pull the trigger after the trio of Lenny Rodrigues, Mehtab Hossain and Chhetri had done the spadework.
"We dominated the match but missed many chances. It was our mistake and we feel guilty about it," Chhetri said after the match. The goal took Chhetri past IM Viajayan and he presently has 41 international goals to his credit, one less than Bhaichung Bhutia.
"We had eight to 10 chances and we need to convert them in our next match," he said.
India play hosts Nepal in their last group league match on September 5.
National coach Wim Koevermans said he was happy that Chhetri scored.
"Chhetri showed his value, what he is capable of. We created a lot of chances around 10 but could not convert. On the other hand, the rival team scored off a set-piece. It happens so many times in Football," Koevermans said.
"We should have got three points but have to be happy with one," he added.