Calcutta: Captain Sunil Chetri came to the rescue as his late strike helped India save the blushes against Bangladesh, as the International Friendly ended 2-2, at the Nehru Stadium, in Fatorda, Goa, on Wednesday.
Chetri, in fact, scored both the goals that took his tally to 44 in international matches. To be precise, it was solely due to his efforts that Bangladesh were denied a victory.
The visitors, trailing 0-1 at the halfway stage, turned the tables on India, thanks to conversions from Mithun Chowdhury and an own goal midway during the second session. However, Chetri unleashed a stunner in the 89 th minute, off a Denzil Franco cross from the right flank, much to the relief of the hosts.
If not for Chetri’s second goal, India could have been in further trouble as goalkeeper Subrata Paul was sent off for his second booking in the match during the added-on time. No wonder Chetri’s second was a timely one…
The first half, though, saw India have the better of exchanges. The Robin Singh-Chetri combination brought about India’s lead. Chetri essayed the ball to Robin who shielded his marker and played a wall-pass to set the former up with a good chance.
Chetri gathered it, entered the rival box and even as ’keeper Sahidul Alam tried to narrow the angle, he curled it past him into the far corner. Robin and Chetri kept the Bangladesh defence guessing throughout the first session.
India made a double substitution in the second half, with Victorino Fernandes and Rocus Lamare replacing Clifford Miranda and an injured Mehtab Hussain, respectively.
And just seven minutes into the session, Bangladesh equalised with Mithun tapping the ball in after a Sohel Rana centre deflected off Arnab Mondal.
In the 65 th minute, the visitors went on the ascendancy. Arnab, in a desperate attempt to keep away Hemanta’s cross from the right flank, deflected it into his own net.
Bangladesh, precisely, looked more purposeful during this period of the game, while India’s thrust seemed to be missing.
Nonetheless, Chetri rose to the occasion just when it mattered, ensuring India didn’t leave the ground empty handed. Coach Wim Koevermans was “not pleased” with his team’s performance. “We had a shaky start, but picked it up. We should have finished it in the first half itself.
“But first, Robin Singh’s placement went straight to the rival goalkeeper and then Clifford Miranda’s powerful shot missed by an inch,” he said.
“We need to work on a few things. I didn’t expect a draw, but it happened as we failed to seal it in the first half.”
Wim’s counterpart Lodewijk Dariusde Kruif said it was “bitter sweet for the second time.” “We came here to play football. Our touches were on display. There were 1-2-3 touches and we were moving around. We fielded a whole lot of under-20 boys and to me, the best player on the field, Hemanta Biswas, is just 17-years old,” he stated.
“I am proud of my boys. It would have been nice to leave with a victory. But that’s the way football is all about.”