King’s Cup 2019: Sunil Chhetri creates history, India goes down fighting against Curacao

XtraTime Web Desk:
The debut as Head Coach did not turn out to be a ‘memorable’ one, as Igor Stimac-era in Indian football begins with a deplorable defeat against mighty Curacao at the King’s Cup today. Some disappointing defending and poor team selection resulted in the Blue Tigers to bow out of the tournament with a 1-3 defeat. Though Sunil Chhetri scored his 68th goal in International football in his ‘milestone’ match, where he became the most capped Indian international footballer.

The Croatian gaffer handed international debuts to Brandon Fernandes, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Rahul Bheke, as the team played in the  4-2-3-1 formation with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under the sticks. The four-man backline comprised of Bheke and Sandesh Jhingan at the heart of the defence with Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose in their usual right-back and left-back positions respectively.

Curacao took full advantage of the disappointing start from India as they were rewarded on the 15th minute when they drew first blood through Bonevacia after he latched on to a low cross from Magno Nepomuceno. The two centre backs should have done much better as the Al-Faisaly player was left unmarked and he tapped it in past a helpless Gurpreet.

Three minutes later, the Caribbean island doubled the lead after Bheke lost the physical battle in midfield and gave away possession to Bonevacia, who continued to be in the thick of things. The midfielder released Elson Oohoi and the winger kept his calm to find the net after showing a clean pair of heels to Gurpreet who came out of his line to narrow down the angle.

India pulled one back through Chhetri in the 31st minute after the legend converted a spot-kick, awarded for a high boot on Sahal Abdul Samad inside the box.

Two minutes from half-time, India got another sight of goal but Curacao’s keeper Eloy Room, who plays for Dutch giant PSV, put in a brilliant save to deny Udanta from close range.

Curacao regained their two-goal lead as Premier League side Cardiff City star Bacuna scored in the 33rd minute. Bheke was left for dead by Bonevacia as the Bengaluru FC defender was tricked by a back-heel which fell for Bacuna with acres of space in front of him. Bacuna took his time and then triggered a shot beyond the reach of Gurpreet to take the game out of India’s reach.

India played decent football in the second half and came very close to score when Chhetri’s attempt came off the cross piece.

India to play the third-place game on Saturday when they will face the losing team of the other clash between Thailand and Vietnam.



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