Chhetri gives India gritty win, women lose to Chinese Taipei
The skipper nets in the 85th minute as India beat Bangladesh 1-0 to register their first win of the ongoing Asian Games in Hangzhou
After their opening loss to hosts China on Tuesday, India coach Igor Stimac had urged his boys be judged only till the 72nd minute of that game. Against Bangladesh, he gave his "heroes" full marks as India, riding on skipper Sunil Chhetri's 85th-minute penalty, registered their first win at the ongoing Asian Games in Hangzhou on Thursday. Egged on by a partisan crowd - majority of the 5232 who turned up at the Xiaoshan Sports Centre Stadium rooted for India -- Chhetri's men prevailed 1-0 in an attritional game to maintain their all-win record against Bangladesh.
"It was a tough game, but matches against Bangladesh do tend to be that way. There was lot of pushing and pulling, and they tried their best, but in the end, the result went in our favour which is what matters," coach Igor Stimac said after the win.
Hurting after a 1-5 loss to hosts China, India got their Asian Games campaign back on track when Bangladesh skipper Mohammed Rahmat was penalised for a rough tackle on Bryce Miranda inside the box. Chhetri then sent the ball low and flat to the keeper's left as India got their first points on the board.
It shouldn't have come this far though. India had their chances in either half, but despite holding possession for the better part of the match, the final push arrived only at the fag end of the match.
Stimac, though, was not too bothered. "I know we have not lost to them in many years and each time we play them, people expect us to win. But such kind of matches come with a different kind of pressure. They are not a side that simply rolled over. We had better possession, precision, and control, and therefore I call it a well-deserved win."
India started well and made with rapid inroads in the Bangladeshi half within the first few minutes. In the 12th minute, Rahul KP's precise cross was not intercepted cleanly by Chhetri in the box. Four minutes later, Rahmat entered the box with a daring run from the left but the move was aborted in the box. In the 27th minute, Mohammad Foysal Ahmed beat a crowd of defenders and unleashed a powerful kick from the edge of the box, only to find goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh.
The Indians, however, didn't panic. They continued to attack and maintained an aggressive high line throughout, the strategy almost bearing fruit in the first half extra time when Chhetri, Rahul and Abdul Rabeh Anjukandan all shot from close range, but goalkeeper Mitul Marma fended off the barrage.
Stimac credited his team's composure to come back strongly in the next half.
"We had a few chances and perhaps we should have scored earlier, but the boys remained patient and focussed. They knew that if they stayed disciplined, a goal will come anytime, and it did."
The coach also heaped praise on Chhetri, who played 86 minutes against China and a full 90 minutes on Thursday. "Ideally, we would have loved to give him some rest and manage his game time, but we don't have much choice. Chhetri is a hero and a proper leader and made my job a lot easier on the pitch," the coach added.
India will next play Myanmar on Sunday and the hurriedly-assembled team can have a few much-needed days of rest and recovery. Top two teams from six groups advance to the final 16 along with four best-placed third-placed teams. India have not made it past the group stages since the 2010 Asian Games.
Chinese Taipei down India 2-1
India's campaign in women's football started on a disappointing note after an impressive first half as higher-ranked Chinese Taipei rallied to win 2-1 in the Asian Games in Wenzhou.
The Thomas Dennerby-coached side, who, at world no 61, are 23 notches lower than the world No. 38 Chinese Taipei, dominated the first half. The opening goal came right after the break when Anju Tamang scored in the 47th minute.
Her initial strike at the goal was stopped by Ming Jung but she slotted home the rebound.
But Chinese Taipei hit back in the 68th minute when Li-Chin Lai unleashed a powerful strike with her right foot. In the 84th minute, substitute Hsuan Su scored the winning goal after a goalkeeping mistake by Shreya Hooda.