A sub-standard India were lucky to get away with a point after being held to 1-1 draw by Bangladesh in World Cup qualifiers match at the Yuba Bharati Krirangam Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday.
Bangladesh, who came looking for a point, almost managed to get the entire three after Saad Uddin’s header in the 42nd minute stunned a 65,000-plus partisan Kolkata crowd, handing visitors a crucial 1-0 advantage.
However, defender Adil Khan, saved the day for the hosts as he smashed a corner from Brandon Fernandes in the 89th minute.
Having failed to win a single game so far and drawing two, India are now languishing at the fourth position in Group E.
India head coach Igor Stimac made three changes to the lineup that held Qatar to a goalless draw with Nikhil Poojary, suspended Rowllin Broges, injured Sandesh Jhingan being replaced by Ashique Kuruniyan, Sunil Chhetri and Anas Edathodika. Bangladesh, on the other hand, fielded the same team which played against the Asian Champions last week.
Early Scares for the Blues:
In the opening 20 seconds of the game, Rahul Bheke was caught ball watching (looking for an offside) as Biplo Ahmed sped past him into the box. In a moment of panic, the defender made the slightest of contact on the shin but the referee failed to spot it as India got a lucky break.
While the right-back certainly wanted himself to be heavily involved in the contest, it was not quite the way he would have anticipated as moments later he made another questionable tackle inside the box, almost resulting in two penalties within the first eight minutes.
The first 10 minutes was not quite a stroll in the park that the Indian fans would have hoped for, with Bangladesh creating a couple of dangerous opportunities and showing why they would not be pushovers.
From the onset, Bangladesh’ positional play was quite impressive. Time and again they switched from their starting 4-4-2 to 4-5-1 and 4-2-3-1 creating additional space and putting the onus on the hosts to break them down.
The Bengal Tigers ran their hearts out putting pressure on the Indian defence with their efforts finally reaping rewards at the dying moments of first half.
Trying to deal with a freekick coming from the left, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu mistimed the flight of the ball and failed to make any contact in an attempt to clear it as Saad Uddin headed inside an empty goal to put his side in the lead, three minutes before halftime.
It was India’s undoing as Bheke gave away a silly free-kick. Skipper Jamal Bhuyan’s searching ball into the far post was always asking a tough question and the hosts failed to come up with an answer.
India, on the other hand, using the width of the big pitch at the Salt Lake Stadium did look threatening on a couple of occasions as the Blue Tigers tried to break a disciplined Bangladesh side, who held a very compact shape.
After the flashes against Qatar, it was quite baffling why India went for the long-ball approach against Bangladesh instead of playing it on the turf. A clear tactical decision by the looks of it though, maybe to surprise Bangladesh.
India continuously pressed to level things up and came close on numerous occasions an even hitting the cross bar. Defender Adil Khan finally got the crowd on their feet with a thrilling late equaliser.
However, their defensive incompetency in the first half meant that it was too little too late. In the end all the passionate supporters got was a lacklustre performance from the Blue Tigers which also hampers their World Cup qualification hopes.