India cruised to their second victory in the AFC U-22 Qualifiers as they got the better of an over defensive Turkmenistan side at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium in Muscat. The Indian colts defeated their west Asian counter parts by four goals to one. Ranked twenty-six places above the Indians, the Turkmenistan side fancied their chances against the Indians, who had earned a hard-fought draw in the last match against a potent UAE side. Coach Arthur Papas’ side is now positioned third in the table with seven points from their four scheduled games so far. The hosts Oman have garnered the same number of points as India, but India’s superior goal difference positions them in the third place.
The young Indian Cubs had to win this match to stay in contention for qualification and the side came up with a scintillating performance to achieve that yesterday. Here is the starting eleven that took the field against the west Asians:
India starting eleven: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (Captain); Vishal Kumar, Deepak Devrani, Souvik Ghosh, Narayan Das; Ganeshan , Milan Singh, Lalrindika Ralte, Romeo Fernandes , Alwyn George, Manandeep Singh.
The lanky East Bengal goal keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu once again led the team wearing the captain’s armband. India made as many as five changes to the team which started against the UAE side few days ago. Abhishek Das made way for Vishal Kumar, who was again slotted in his favored right back position and Deepak Devrani was included on behalf of Prathamesh at the centre of defense. In the middle of the park, young Ganeshan and the impressive Romeo Fernandes were included as Sajju Mon and Pranay Halder were planned to make an impact from the bench. Alwyn George came right back into the mix after serving his one match suspension, and started alongside Manandeep Singh.
The Indians started of the match on a vigilant note, just as they have been doing in their most of the match, but soon hit their attacking buttons as the Turkmenistan side was defending in numbers as early as fifteen minutes. The Indian attacking lineup often was denied by some desperate defending and it became a matter of “the goal was coming, the only question was when”. Eventually the blue brigade was awarded a spot kick as Romeo Fernandes was bought down in the twelve yard box nine minutes from the lemon break. Dika Ralte stepped up and scored the goal past diving Garayev. Alwyn George, who had been double marked throughout match, got the better of his markers courtesy swift dribbling and unleashed a shot, which struck against the upright. India went into the second with a goal advantage.
The Turkmenistan side came out of the tunnel with a lot more grit as Indians continued from where they had left. Dempo prodigy Romeo hit the upright after just five minutes into the second half, materializing almost a perfect counter attack. But it was the west Asians who restored parity in the fifty ninth minute, against the flow. Italmazov Farhad scored for the green jerseys and Indians were left to re-launch and start again. The young Indians did up the ante and replied in style. Alwyn George took advantage of a defensive tumble as he chipped his left footed chip clinically over Gayarev to restore the one goal advantage. Just two minutes later, Alwyn once again was through on the goal, but Garayev made himself big while diving and Alwyn’s shot deflected from his foot. Romeo joined the act and scored in his consecutive game fourteen minutes from the full-time whistle, courtesy a wonderful assist from Alwyn. Jeje was bought on to replace Manandeep and he completed the rout by scoring India’s second spot kick in the eighty-sixth minute.
Arthur Papas started with 4-3-2-1, which he has usually done in this tournament. Romeo Fernandes and Alwyn George playing around Manandeep Singh, was the core mantra of all the attacks. Dika Ralte and Milan Singh took their usual positions, responsible for switching flanks and building up from behind. Short passes among the back six has been the USP of all the India attacks. On the other hand, India Counter with an extra person in Ralte, this puts the marking of the opponent’s defense in six’s and sevens. (4-2-1-3) Tirthankar Sarkar, a more attacking midfielder was bought on to replace Ganeshan, which kicked off the Indian comeback.
India now locks horns against the hosts Oman on Tuesday. Both the teams have hoarded same points from their four games and a victory for either of them would boost their chances to qualify. The Indians need to hope that Iraq wins against UAE. Any other result between the Iraq-UAE game would see Indians finish in the third spot. Indians would miss the services of Defender Narayan Das and Midfielder Tirthankar Sarkar due to double booking.
Lebanon 3-4 UAE
Iraq 1-1 Oman
Oman v India ( 3rd July)