India 1 (Sunil Chhetri 10th) D/W Afghanistan 1 (Balal Arezo 5th min)
It was the perfect setting for a football match – a lazy afternoon sun and a tempting green turf at the majestic Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium — that too in a weather which is best suited to perhaps, play only football. Once you step in, you will need some time to settle down, the majestic structure will surely cast a spell on you.
By the time one had settled down in the stands, Afghanistan had already taken the lead, in the 5thminute through Balal Arezo. That was India’s wake-up call.
Seven minutes later, a smart equaliser – a header from a Steven Dias corner brought India back in the game.
Thereafter, India did get their act together putting the Afghan defence under immense pressure. Upfront, Jeje played the perfect foil to Chhetri and Steven Dias and Clifford Miranda did float some crosses into the box.
Afghanistan had their chances too as rival captain Haroon Fakhrudin and Mohammad Esrafil combined well to split open the Indian defence towards the fag end of the first half but failed to finish it off.
Changing over, India failed to finish it off. Twice, Chhetri and Jeje, both fresh after their trials with Rangers failed to put it in from close. The Indians pressed on the left wing but the Afghans managed to hold fort.
Team India Coach Savio Medeira did introduce Anthony Pereira and Lalrindika Ralte but even as the lights at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium were lighting up, it failed to light up India’s fortunes.
India next play Bhutan on December 5, the kick-off for which is at 6pm.
Team India: Karanjit Singh (GK); Mahesh Gawli, Samir Naik, Syed Rahim Nabi, Gouramangi Singh; Climax Lawrence (C), Clifford Miranda (Lalrindika Ralte – 88th), Steven Dias (Anthony Periera – 67th), Rocus Lamare; Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sunil Chhetri.