Indian captain Sunil Chhetri proved his worth yet again as he struck in the 90th minute to break a 64-year jinx of beating Myanmar at home in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier round on Tuesday.
Udanta Singh’s clinical pass from inside the box was calmly converted by Chhetri to start the campaign with a hard-fought win. The Bengaluru FC star’s 53rd goal for the national team also helped India climb the top of group A in the Asian Cup qualifiers.
Myanmar, who are 29 places below India’s world ranking of 133, forced the Blue Tigers to start on a cautious note. Myanmar could have taken the lead within the first five minutes but defender Anas Edathodika kept Kyaw Ko Ko at bay.
However, Chhetri hit the gas immediately when he cut into from the left flank but the Myanmar defender deflected the danger with utmost precision.
Meanwhile, Eugeneson Lyngdoh was falling back time and again to give more support to the Indian defense line. India were always trying to build up the attack gradually from the middle of the pitch and the first clear-cut chance came for the visitors just after the 20-minute mark.
Jackichand Singh outmuscled a Myanmar defender and unleashed a long cross from the right. If Robin Singh jumped a second earlier, India could have broken the deadlock. Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet showed his composure consistently to clear the long crosses to keep his team in the running.
India, just at the stroke of the half-hour mark, missed a golden chance when Robin’s through pass was skied by Jackichand to leave the Indian dugout stunned.
Hosts Myanmar started the second half in a much-spirited way. Their fast-paced wingers kept the Indian defense line quite busy, as India proved their resilience to keep the scoreline 0-0.
In the 70th minute, out of nowhere, Udanta outpaced the Myanmar defense but was brought down inside the box. Surprisingly, the referee wasn’t interested in the Indians’ appeal for a penalty, although it looked like a legitimate one.
India then changed gears with 10 minutes left on the clock as 3 minutes to the end of the regulation time, Constantine introduced Halicharan Narzary to insert more agility into the attack.
And finally, the biggest moment of the match came for India in the very last minute. Udanta, following a terrific counter-attacking move, cut in from the right flank to give an inch-perfect pass to Chhetri, who hammered the back of the net to silence the 20,000-strong Myanmar crowd.
India will now welcome Kyrgyzstan in their second match of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifying campaign.