India turned around a one goal deficit and beat higher ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in an FIFA international friendly in Mumbai on Saturday. India were down 0-1 in the seventh minute with Emmanuel Sanchez scoring off a spot-kick award, but the hosts went on to dominate the visitors, ranked 38 places above them, with some slick passing and quick attacking moves.
India, who led 3-1 at the half-way stage, scored their goals through Narayan Das (18th minute), Chhetri (26th), Jeje Lalpekhlua (34th) and Jackichand Singh (58th). This was India’s fourth straight victory after the 1-2 loss to Turkmenistan in the World Cup qualifier in Kochi in March early this year. They had got past Laos 6-1 and 1-0 in the Asia Cup qualifiers in June and then drubbed Bhutan 3-0 last month in another international friendly.
India: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (C & GK), Arnab Mondal, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Pronay Halder, Jackichand Singh, Bikash Jairu, Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sandesh Jhinghan
Puerto Rico: Christofer Alexander Echevarria Del Valle, Johnny Santana Ramirez, Joan Sebastian Morales Feliciano, Juan Gabriel Velez Lago, Emmanuel Alejandro D’Andrea Yepez, Juan Antonio Agustin Coca Nogueras, Marcos Junior Martinez Amaro, Elliot M Velez Lago, Andres Nicolas Cabrero Gomez, Emanuel Miguel Benedetto Sanchez, Micheal Anthony Ramon Ramos, Javier Orlando Lalondriz Fernandez, Alexis Rivera Curet, Jacob Rafael Conde, Karlos Francisco Ferrer Mojica, Jose A Martinez.
India vs Puerto Rico: As it happened
90+4′ A dominant India beat higher ranked Puerto Rico 4-1 in Mumbai in FIFA international friendly
90′ Four minutes of added time for India and Puerto Rico. India playing it easy having the lead 4-1
86′ A close chance for India! Daniel gets the touch but it just goes from the front of the goal and no one is covering the far post. India 4-1 Puerto Rico
83′ India with another substitution! Jackichand, who had a great apart from the early penalty he conceded early in the game, comes off. Seityasen comes on
78′ Sunil Chhetri is walking off the field! He scored the second goal for India. The crowd is on its feet to cheer the former captain. Daniel Lalhimpuia comes on
73′ India with another attack! Idnia so good going forward. India get a corner after the kick is deflected but fail to make use of it
70′ Sanchez with a shot after Ramos pass but that hits the post! Puerto Rico trying to get their second goal
70′ Puerto Rico has tried to break into India’s defence but apart from a couple of passes, they have failed to do anything convinving
67′ Jeje walks of the field in some pain but he has done his job. Sumeet Passi replaces him with 23 minutes remaining in the match
56′ GOAL! India extend the lead over Puerto Rico to 4-1 after Jackichand puts one in for them. Crowd getting behind India
49′ Jeje and Jackichand again. Jeje passes it to Jacki who hits it clean but it is straight to the goalkeeper. Could have been the fourth goal
46′ Puerto Rico will kickoff things in the second half from right to left. India lead 3-1 and the crowd is backing the home team
46′ Players are coming back on the field. A change for Puerto Rico as goalkeeper are changed and India are also changing one player
45+2′ Half time in Mumbai and India will go into the break with a two goal lead. India 3-1 Puerto Rico at half-time
45+1′ India concede an unlucky corner but it is straight to Gurpreet. He hits it quickly ahead and Jackichand in all alone. He takes the shot at the goal but straight to Puerto Rican goalkeeper
45′ Two minutes of added time to the first half between India and Puerto Rico
45′ Jeje takes the ball to the Puerto Rican box alone and tries to extend the lead for India but no help from others. India 3-1
41′ Sunil Chhetri controlling the game like a master. He partners with Jeje again but the latter tries to cut inside but too difficult
37′ Another Jackichand-Jeje partnership but the side referee says Jeje is off-side! That could have been Jeje vs Puerto Rican goalie
32′ GOAL! Brilliant team play from India with Sunil with the big assist to Jeje and he heads it inside to give India a two goal lead. India 3-1 up
30′ Could have been third for India but Jeje’s hits it wide! Great ball from Jackichand but Jeje should have done better
25′ SAVE ! That was very close for India but Gurpreet is alert. He saves from close range and denies Puerto Rico an equaliser. Poor defending as they let it through two defenders
24′ GOAL! India take the lead through Chhetri! He sends the kick into the goal after it hit the post. India 2-1 Puerto Rico
22′ D’Andrea is booked outside the box after he brings down Sunil Chhetri! India will have a free kick and Sunil will take it
18′ GOAL! India level scores 1-1! After Sunil Chhetri’s free kick hits the post, Narayan Das puts the ball inside. India 1-1 Puerto Rico
17′ India receive a free kick just outside the box. India had appealed for a penalty but referee decides against India. Chhetri to take the kick
12′ A couple of good plays from India but not too many presses in the box. Chhetri fails to trap a pass and Puerto Rican goalkeeper collects it
09′ GOAL! Puerto Rico take the lead early into the game as Sanchez converts the penalty and put India under pressure
08′ PENALTY for Puerto Rico! Jackichand fouls a Puerto Rico player inside the box and brings him down. Referee signals towards the spot
02′ Puerto Rico get the first corner after India defender try to clear but sends it wide. But the defence is good enough to clear it
00′ We are underway in Mumbai! India to start from right to left. An important game for them
1955 hrs IST: Time for the national anthems as the players of the two teams come out on the pitch and meet the dignataries
1951 hrs IST: India are going in with a 4-4-3 which has been the a norm under coach Stephen Constantine
1948 hrs IST: Sunil Chheetri will not be the captain for today’s match. Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu will be India’s captain
1945 hrs IST: A rare match for India! They are playing a higher ranked Puerto Rico in Mumbai. And it also the first time (after 62 years) that Mumbai is hosting an international friendly
There’s an uncanny sense of anticipation for India’s friendly fixture against Puerto Rico. It’s not often that the national team gets to play against higher-ranked opponents. Yet, this time around, the excitement stems more from what lies beyond the tie on Saturday. India is scheduled to play in the third round of the Asian Cup qualifiers in March next year and Saturday’s match is seen as the first step towards preparation for the continental event.
As such, playing against the higher ranked Puerto Rican outfit, placed 114th in the world, becomes all the more important. “I’d rather the team lose 4-0 to Iran than win 5-0 against Bhutan. We have to keep improving and working on our mistakes, and we can only do that by playing bigger teams,” asserts national coach Stephen Constantine.
Although India are ranked 38 places below Puerto Rico, they are expected to have an upper hand as the visitors are under-prepared for the match. Just four days ahead of the game at the Andheri Sports Complex in Mumbai, Puerto Rico hosted, and lost 1-0 to, arch rivals Dominican Republic. Subsequently, the islanders opted to delay their 14,000 km journey to the point that they would arrive at the subcontinent just a day ahead of the match – hence forgoing any practice session they might have planned earlier to help the team adjust to the new conditions.
It’s assumed that the team may suffer from travel fatigue to a certain degree, yet they still will be keen to employ their proven fluidic one-touch style of play. “It’s not exactly a typical South American style because their build-up play is slow. But they like to keep the ball with them and pass it around. They’re also dangerous inside the box because of that passing movement,” says Constantine. The most recent example was a goal they scored in the 3-1 loss to the United States in May. “That one goal came after a series of first-touch passes in the box,” he adds.
The visitor’s key attackers Jorge Rivera, Joseph Marrero and all-time leading goalscorer Hector Ramos have not made the journey to India. As a result, the visitors will be forced to field a depleted frontline – an aspect that will well suit India. Bolstered by the form of striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, who scored thrice against Laos during India’s 7-1 aggregate victory during the preliminary Asian Cup qualifying round in June, Constantine is assertive that the hosts will lineup with an attacking mindset.
Nonetheless, despite Puerto Rico fielding a depleted side, the hosts are still wary of the 1-0 loss against an unfancied Guam team last year. Much like the visitors in Mumbai, Guam is a US territory that recruited most of its players from American clubs. In fact, Puerto Rico hosts a football club, Puerto Rico FC, which plays its professional games in the second division of the US league – the North American Soccer League. Similarly, the other players too are exposed to higher brands of football