India celebrated their qualification for the Finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 on Tuesday by handing Hong Kong a 4-0 defeat at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium that ensured Igor Stimac’s side finished on top of the standings in Group D.
The win sees India complete the Qualifiers with a perfect record after earlier wins over Afghanistan and Cambodia, while Hong Kong have also secured their place at next year’s Finals after claiming one of the five best runners-up spots with their six-point haul.
A goal at either end of the first half put the Indians on their way to victory as Stimac’s side made sure of top spot in the group against a Hong Kong side that was celebrating qualification for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1968.
Anwar Ali struck with less than a minute on the clock to give the home side the perfect start, smashing his shot into the roof of the net after the Hong Kong defence had failed to clear Udanta Singh Kumam’s cross following a short corner.
But Jorn Andersen’s side soon woke up and were creating the better of the chances as the half wore on. Sandesh Jhingan was forced to put the ball over his own bar after good work by Wong Wai while Sean Tse glanced his header from Ju Yingzhi’s corner wide of the target.
Wong then sent his shot on the run across the face of goal before Matt Orr found just enough space to send in a low cross from the left that Sun Ming-him narrowly failed to meet.
Yapp Hung-fai’s reflex save from Sahal Abdul Samad in the 27th minute underlined the threat the Indians continued to carry while Sun was unfortunate to only steer Ju’s free-kick into Gurpreet Singh’s hands and Orr headed over soon after with the goalkeeper stranded.
However, rather than claim the equaliser, Hong Kong slipped further behind in injury time. A moment of magic from Sunil Chhetri, who had been subdued to that point, was all it took, the 37-year-old pulling Akash Mishra’s free-kick out of the air with his right before stroking home calmly with his left.
Chhetri was denied a second six minutes after the restart when Yapp pushed his shot wide after a mistake by Fung Hing-wa had presented the ball to the striker deep into Hong Kong territory.
India claimed their third with five minutes remaining as substitute Glan Martins swept the ball in from 10 yards, hitting a low shot that Yapp was unable to prevent from crossing the line and Martins turned provider in injury time as Ishan Pandita turned in the fourth.