India take on Bangladesh in SAFF Championships
Kathmandu: Having begun their title defence with a lacklustre performance, India would look to make amends and stamp their authority when they square off against Bangladesh in their second group league match in the SAFF Football Championships here on Tuesday.
It was a disappointing show by the Indians in their campaign opener as they allowed Pakistan to dominate for major part of the match and needed an own goal from the rival skipper to come out unscathed.
Coach Wim Koevermas had minced no words in the post-match press conference, saying that he was not happy with the performance of his men and his side were lucky to have won the game.
India (ranked 145th) though would start as favourites in Tuesday`s Group A match against Bangladesh who are 13 notches below at 158th.
In the 22 meetings between the two teams, India have won 11 times while Bangaldesh have won thrice and eight games were drawn.
The last time the two sides met in the 2007 Nehru Cup at Ambedkar Stadium in New Delhi, India won 1-0 with erstwhile captain Bhaichung Bhutia scoring the lone goal.
India will need to make amends and improve by leaps and bounds if they are serious about their title defence and coach Koevermans knows it. A win will virtually put India through to the semi-finals.
For Koevermans, he believes that his boys will treat each and every game as a final.
"It`s our second `final` as we are here to play five `finals ` and defend our title. Bangladesh saw us play and will plan for us. They will come hard at us," Koevermans said ahead of Tuesday`s match.
Asked about his side`s strategy for Tuesday`s match at the match-eve press conference, Koevermans said, "Bangladesh are a good technical side and have their final chance against us. But we need to focus on ourselves and there`s always a scope of improvement."
"Nepal and Bangladesh have had an extra day of rest as they played on 31st. When every other team is playing every alternate day, I think it`s not fair," he said.
In the 62nd minute, senior stopper Gourmangi Singh`s header didn`t find the target. In the next minute, Chhetri and Jeje combined but Pakistan averted the danger. And then off the next attack, Chhetri averted Zesh Rehman but his effort was thwarted by timely anticipation from Pakistan custodian Yousaf Ejaz Butt.
Chhetri could have sealed the fate in the 75th minute. He snatched the ball from the centre-line, played an one-two with Mehtab Hossain and found himself all in the clear. But his left footed placement was way off the mark. Off the next attack, his left-footer was again fisted away by Butt.
Chhetri, perhaps, wasn`t destined to score because in the 80th minute, he found himself again in the clear inside the Pakistan penalty box but this time too, his placement just went wide. The fate stayed the same off the next Indian attack, this time too, Chhetri`s powerful shot missing by a whisker.
His wait to become India`s highest goalscorer continues.
In the 85th minute, another of Fernandes shot from inside the box narrowly missed the mark.
India: Subrata Paul, Nirmal Chettri, Gouramangi Singh, Arnab Mondal, Mohanraj Nallappan (Syed Rahim Nabi ? 63rd), Francis Fernandes, Lenny Rodrigues, Mehtab Hossain, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Allwyn George (Jewel Raja Shaikh ? 46th), Sunil Chhetri.
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