India have finally managed to get some points on the board in Group D of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers (AFC), with a 1-0 win over Guam, on a rainy night at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru, on Thursday.
It was Robin Singh with a thundering effort from just inside the Guam box, that gave India a lead in the 10th minute, as the hosts proceeded to defend the slender lead in spite of having Sehnaj Singh sent off, just before half time.
The match started in high tempo, with Guam launching into the attack early on, earning a corner, but it was the Indians, who made the more clear-cut chances in attack. India keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who plies his trade in the Tippeligean in Norway, had a great day under the bar. He managed to keep a clean sheet for the first time in India’s 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.
However, it was Bengaluru FC boy Robin Singh, who stole all the headlines with a thundering strike on the 10th minute, to win the match for India. Robin received the ball just inside the corner of the Guam box, towards the left flank, and was surrounded by a couple of defenders.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh was available just outside the box, for Robin to pass to, but the big centre-forward just dropped his shoulders, sold a dummy to his markers and fired an unstoppable drive, as the ball thundered off the bottom of the crossbar and headed into the net.
This goal gave the Indians a lot of confidence to create more chances against their Guam counterparts, who had their own efforts on the Indian goal. The game was being played at a good pace, until Sehnaj Singh lunged into a horrendous tackle, with his studs showing. This invariably earned him a red card, making India’s job a lot more difficult in the second half.
India coach Stephen Constantine decided to go for fresh legs from early on in the second half, as he brought on Harmanjot Khabra instead of the skillful Romeo Fernandes. This seemed to be a sensible move for the Indians, as they were looking to hold on to the three points.
However with half the match still to go and India down to 10 men, it still seemed quite doubtful that the task could be accomplished. Guam had a few good chances at the Indian goal, but the home side defended well to keep them out. The likes of goalkeeper Gurpreet, defenders Sandesh Jhingan and Pritam Kotal, and midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh had brilliant outings, putting in their defensive shifts, when their team needed it the most.
Although this win does not really mean much with context to the position of India (fifth) in Group D, they would take heart from the fact that they have managed to get their first points on board. India are now just four points away from Guam and Turkmenistan (both on seven points), and a few more points could well get Constantine’s men higher up the table. Their next match in fact, is against Turkmenistan, on March 29 2016, and a win could make things very interesting.