Blue Tigers hold China

Gritty In­dian men se­cure re­mark­able 0-0 draw in his­toric friendly match

The Free Press Journal - - FPJ SPORTS -

In­dia snatched a re­mark­able goal-less draw against an ag­gres­sive China, walk­ing away with equal hon­ours in an in­ter­na­tional foot­ball friendly played against each other for the first time in 21 years here on Satur­day.

In a keenly-watched match played be­tween the two most pop­u­lous coun­tries in the world but still lag­gards in the global game, China clearly dom­i­nated the pro­ceed­ings with sev­eral chances com­ing their way but they failed to get a goal.

Chi­nese for­wards’ goal drought con­tin­ued while the In­di­ans, es­pe­cially the back­four of cap­tain San­desh Jhin­gan, Narayan Das, Pri­tam Ko­tal and Sub­ha­sish Bose, played their hearts out to held their nerves till the end. The home side had at least three clear chances with two be­ing de­nied by the wood­work while their star striker Gao Lin failed to find the tar­get sev­eral times. Cus­to­dian Gur­preet Singh Sandhu stood like a rock in front of the In­dian goal as he de­nied the home side at least on four oc­ca­sions.

It was a re­mark­able achieve­ment for In­dia as they have drawn against a con­ti­nen­tal top side like China in their own den. In­dia were play­ing on the Chi­nese soil for the first time and there were pe­ri­ods in the match, though few and far be­tween, when the vis­i­tors threat­ened on the coun­ters.

In­dia had two very good chances on ei­ther side of the breather, one from Pri­tam Ko­tal and an­other from sub­sti­tute Farukh Choud­hary, and a cou­ple of half chances.

The draw is also ex­pected to take In­dia higher in the FIFA rank­ings. They are now placed 97th while China are at 76th spot. On the other hand, China, coached by 2006 World Cup win­ning Ital­ian coach Mar­cello Lippi, con­tin­ued their re­cent strug­gle as they failed to score in three matches on the trot.

China had lost to an in­ex­pe­ri­enced Qatar team 0-1 last month be­fore play­ing out a 00 draw against Bahrain. They have not scored since beat­ing Thai­land 2-0 in June. In­dia head coach Stephen Con­stan­tine had pre­dicted an at­tack­ing-minded Chi­nese team and that pre­cisely turned out as the home side made a wave of at­tacks in the first ses­sion.

But the vis­i­tors did not give an inch to the Chi­nese at­tack­ers, led by vet­eran Gao Lin who has played more than 100 in­ter­na­tional matches, for most part while goalie Gur­preet made a few fine saves. In the sev­enth minute it­self, the In­dian goal was un­der threat but Jing­han made a timely clear­ance for a cor­ner fol­low­ing Yu Dabao’s shot.

The In­di­ans grew in con­fi­dence as the match wore on and they even had a very good chance in the 13th minute when Su­nil Ch­hetri passed the ball back to Pra­noy Halder who went di­ag­o­nal to Anirudh Thapa who, in turn, laid it for an on­rush­ing Ko­tal.

But Ko­tal’s right footer from the right side of the box was par­ried away by Chi­nese goalie Yan Jun­ling. That was the best chance In­dia had in the first-half.

Two min­utes later, Gao had a free header from a cor­ner but the ball went di­rectly to Gur­preet’s hands. In­dia got a free kick in the 17th minute and Thapa’s de­liv­ery found an un­marked Ch­hetri mak­ing a first time shot but the ball sailed over.

Mean­while, half­way through the first half, Gur­preet again pulled off a fine save as he blocked a low shot from Gao af­ter a de­fen­sive mis­take by the In­di­ans. As soon as the sec­ond half be­gan, Gao rat­tled Gur­preet’s cross­bar in the 48th minute but a few min­utes later Udanta Singh was set up by Holicha­ran Narzary but the Ma­nipuri shot over the cross­bar in a hurry.

The 71st minute also saw the In­dian cross­bar be­ing rat­tled by a Wu Lei vol­ley and it was pure luck for In­dia as Gur­preet was com­pletely beaten that time.

Be­fore Satur­day, In­dia and China had played 17 times with the last one be­ing in 1997 in Kochi. China had won 12 times while the re­main­ing five were drawn matches.

In­dia’s Su­nil Chet­tri kicks the ball past China player dur­ing an in­ter­na­tional friendly match on Satur­day

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