New Delhi: Football is surely in the air! After a ravishing, yet heart-breaking performance by the India U-17 squad in the ongoing FIFA tournament in the country, the senior team stepped forth to prove their worth as they stunned Macau 4-1 at the Sree Kanteerva stadium in Bengaluru, on Wednesday to seal their spot for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019. (IND vs MAC – As it happened...)
Rowlin Borges opened the scoring with a fine volley in the 28th minute, skipper Sunil Chhetri restored the lead, after the hosts conceded one, with a strike in the 60th minute, while Macau conceded an own goal through defender Lam Seng in the 70th minute to dig their own grave at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
The fourth goal was scored by Jeje Lalpekhlua (90+2) after being assisted by Chhetri.
For Macau, Nicholas Tarrao scored in the 37th minute -- their first goal of the qualifying campaign.
India topped Group A qualifying round with 12 points from four matches.
Borges gave India the lead, but the Indian celebrations did not last long as in the 37th minute, Torr?o managed to beat goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Chettri knocked in the second goal as India played in the 4-4-2 formation with Balwant Singh and Jeje up front. Holicharan Narzary had moved on the right wing, while Chhetri played on the left.
For his goal, Borges fooled the Macanese goalkeeper after he received a pass from Jeje, who had the presence of mind to spot him. Before Jeje could set it up, Narayan Das whipped in a low cross on the left.
Torrao then stole the ball before it could reach Pritam and and headed it in to draw level. The goal was set up by Chan Chun, who found some space on the right and sent in a beautiful cross.
Chhetri put India ahead 2-1 after he capitalised on a sloppy defensive play. Jeje took it in near the halfway line and sent it to Balwant. The substitute raced forward before squaring the ball into the box for Chhetri.
India were lucky to have got the third strike through a self goal after Lam Seng's attempted clearance turned into disaster as the ball looped over the goalkeeper and went in.
India were desperate to restore their lead before half- time as coach Stephen Constantine watched the proceedings.
At half time, both teams were locked 1-1.
Just before the break India were forced to work the ball around, with Macau deploying all 11 players in their own half.
Playing in rain with puddles of water giving trouble to players, India had two early chances in the second and fourth minutes.
First, Anas and Sandesh failed to get a meaningful touch from close range after Eugeneson Lyngdoh floated one. On the second occasion, before Chhetri could capitalise on a bouncing ball of a Macanese defender's foot, Ho Fai smothered it.
It was India's fourth successive win on the trot in the qualifying stage as the Blue Tigers roared their way into the AFC Asian Cup for the first time in eight years and fourth overall.
India will next play against Myanmar on November 24 and then against Kyrgyzstan on March 27 in 2018.
(with PTI inputs)