Anirudh Thapa struck in the added time of the first half to hand India a 1-0 win over Myanmar in the opening match of the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament, in Imphal on Wednesday. The scoreline should have been bigger considering the fact that India dominated the share of possession, but missed chances combined with the luck factor kept the victory margin at the bare minimum for the hosts.
Indian wingers Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte looked lively from the start, as they made repeated inroads into the opposition third.
Sunil Chhetri had an early look in, as he headed a cross by Thapa over the crossbar. The India captain had another chance from a flag kick at the far post, but the effort produced the same result.
Local boy Jeakson Singh, playing a holding role, stood up to his task, nipping Myanmar attacks in the bud.
Chhetri had a golden chance just a little over the half-hour mark, when Chhangte played him in, but his shot from close range went straight into the keeper’s gloves.
Minutes later, India ‘keeper Amrinder Singh kept the scores level at the other end, when he put his big gloves in the way to keep away Aung Thu’s effort.
The Blue Tigers finally found the breakthrough they were looking for during the injury time of the first half as Thapa latched on to a stray rebound inside the box and smashed it past the keeper from close range.
India head coach Igor Stimac decided to give more reason for the Imphal crowd to cheer, as he brought on Suresh Wangjam instead of Mohammad Yasir in the second half. Soon after, local boy Mahesh Singh got his debut as he and Manvir Singh replaced Bipin Singh and Chhangte.
India thought they had added another goal to their tally with little over quarter of an hour of regulation time left when Chhetri poked in a Thapa cross, but he ruled offside.
The India captain had a crack at the rival goal just minutes later, but it was saved by the opposition keeper.
As the clock wore down, Ritwik Das was given his debut.
Das and Roshan Singh replaced Akash Mishra and Thapa. Seconds before the final whistle, the Myanmar goal had a close shave when Suresh’s shot was saved by the custodian.
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