AIFF Media Team
KATHMANDU: The Blue Tigers ran out winners in their second International Friendly against Nepal on Sunday (September 5, 2021) at the Dasharath Stadium in Kathmandu, with Farukh Choudhary and captain Sunil Chhetri scoring once each in the second half as the scoreline read 2-1 at the full-time whistle.
India began the first half well, with Bipin Singh penetrating through the Nepal backline from the left flank on a number of occasions. In the sixth minute, he played in a looping ball for an onrushing Manvir Singh to head but Kiran Limbu came charging off his line to collect.
Another Bipin cross wreaked havoc in the Nepali defence in the 24th minute as Anirudh Thapa looked to bring the ball under his control inside the penalty area. Just as he was about to pull the trigger, Kiran again advanced from his goalline and cleared the ball away with his feet at the last moment.
As the home team sat back and looked to defend deep, the Blue Tigers continued to press for the opening goal. Thapa, who had found the net for India in the previous friendly three days ago, entered the penalty area from the right in the 29th minute, and fizzed in a low cross with Sunil Chhetri waiting at the back post, only for Ananta Tamang to save the day with a last-ditch sliding tackle.
Manvir Singh, playing down the right flank, clipped in a cross with five minutes to go in the first half, which was flicked on by Rahim Ali for Bipin, who headed the ball back across the goal for Sunil but it is cleared away for a corner.
With a minute of regulation time left to play in the first half, Sunil came close to giving India the lead as Seriton Fernandes played in a deep cross from the right and the resulting header from the Indian skipper went just over the bar.
The first half also saw Nepal cause danger to the Indian goal on a couple of occasions. In the 13th minute, Manish Dangi found himself in space in the penalty area but Chinglensana tracked back and was alert to the danger to stop the shot. Aashish Lama almost got a shot on target in the 28th minute but he could not connect from close range from a cross by Ayush Ghalan.
After the break, India continued their hunt for the go-ahead goal and created threats from both flanks, with Kiran called into action on multiple occasions. Head coach Igor Stimac had brought on Farukh Choudhary to replace Bipin at the break and it was the substitute who broke the deadlock with a calm finish in the 62nd minute.
Chinglensana swung in a curling cross from the left, which Sunil laid perfectly into the path of an unmarked Farukh, who placed it past the keeper and into the corner to give the Blue Tigers the lead.
Consequently, the match became extremely end-to-end, as Nepal began to push more men forward. Amrinder made a good save in the 65th minute from a close-range header and three minutes later, Nawayug Shrestha played in Bishal Rai inside the penalty area, but his effort from 10 yards went wide of the goal. Manish Dangi had another opportunity for the hosts in the 72nd minute as he connected with the ball from a cross at the far post but did not place it on target.
With 15 minutes to play, Farukh and Sunil combined excellently up top, and Rahim was played in towards goal. However, he was denied a shooting opportunity because of a sliding tackle from the Nepali centre-half.
As the match approached its critical stage, Sunil doubled the Blue Tigers’ advantage with a trademark finish – polishing off a fantastic counterattack. It was Nepal who were putting pressure with a free-kick in a dangerous area but Amrinder collected and played the ball to Thapa on the halfway line, who headed it on for a charging Sunil. The Indian skipper calmly approached the goal and sent Kiran the wrong way, before slotting the ball home to make it 2-0.
Just as the match neared the end, the home team scored in the 87th minute through Tej Tamang, who powered home a venomous shot from 30 yards. Five minutes were added by the referee but the Blue Tigers saw them off with ease and clinched the win.
India XI: Amrinder Singh (GK); Subhasish Bose, Chinglensana Singh, Pritam Kotal, Seriton Fernandes; Bipin Singh Thounaojam (Farukh Choudhary 46′), Lalengmawia (Yasir Mohammad 90′), Anirudh Thapa (Pronay Halder 90′), Manvir Singh (Suresh Wangjam 66′); Sunil Chhetri, Rahim Ali (Glan Martins 78′)