Late strike by Chettri saves day for India

Fatorda (Goa), March 5: A late strike by captain Sunil Chettri helped India escape with a 2-2 draw with Bangladesh in international football friendly at Nehru Stadium here Wednesday.

Chettri gave India an early lead in the 14th minute and took his tally to 44 international goals. With his team staring at defeat at 1-2 in the 89th minute, Chhetri rose to the occasion again – this time with a stunner that helped India manage a face-saving draw.

Down by a goal at the interval, Bangladesh came back strongly in the second half with goals from Mithun Chowdhury and Hemanta Biswas.

The first goal set the tone for India in the first half. The Robin Singh-Chettri combination, transpiring right from the drawing board paved the way for it. Sunil essayed it to Robin who shielded his marker and played the wall-pass to set up Chhetri all in the clear.

A composed Chettri gratefully gathered it, entered the rival box and even as rival goalkeeper Sahidul Alam tried to narrow the angle, Chtetri curled it past him into the far corner.

Chettri’s second goal was a volley off a Denzil Franco cross from the right. It wan’t from the drawing board; rather it had class written all over it. And it set the tone for the match.

In the 42nd minute, Robin, faster than any off the blocks, anticipated it right and went past two rival defenders but with only Sahidul to beat, his placement hit the latter. That was easily the easiest chance of the first half.

The last three minutes of the first half witnessed two raspers form both sides. First, Clifford Miranda’s boomer just sailed past and the very next minute, Sohail Rana’s long-ranger was fisted away by Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

India’s pressing football was on display right from the kick-off. Bangladesh did seize the initiative early trying to push India on the backfoot.

By the half-hour mark, Francis and Clifford Miranda had interchanged flanks. Chettri always stayed the spare man in the midfield. So much so, that Jamal Bhunyian couldn’t flourish into his playmaking role as he had to keep a tab on the Indian captain’s movements.

India made a double substitution as both teams changed over – Victorino Fernandes and Rocus Lamare replacing Clifford Miranda and an injured Mehtab Hossain respectively.

Bangladesh pulled it back in the 52nd minute – Mithun tapping it in after a Sohel Rana centre deflected off Arnab Mondal for Mithun to find the net.

Bangladesh looked much more purposeful in the second-half. India’s thrust was nowhere to be found. But Chettri’s brilliance frustrated them once again.

Meanwhile, Subrata Paul was given marching orders for his second booking in the match in injury time but Bangladesh weren’t able to capitalise on the free-kick from just outside the box.

IANS