India missed the chances that came their way to settle for a goalless draw with Lebanon in the Intercontinental Cup football tournament here on Thursday. Continuing with his policy to make wholesome changes to his starting XI, head coach Igor Stimac benched a number of seniors including striker Sunil Chhetri and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Defensive linchpin Sandesh Jhingan wore the captain’s armband in Chhetri’s absence. The result, however, did not matter as both teams had already sealed their places in the final of the four-nation tournament. Mongolia and Vanuatu were the two other teams taking part in the event.
Introduced in the 82nd minute, Chhetri received a perfect delivery from Anirudh Thapa but the India captain could not find the back of the net.
It would have been 1-0 India within the first five minutes of the game but, after being set up by Lallianzuala Chhangte and with just the opposition goalkeeper to beat, Anirudh Thapa missed a sitter in the fourth minute. All he could do was shoot the ball away.
Then, almost 20 minutes into the match, another chance was wasted as Ashique Kuruniyan hit the ball straight to the Lebanese goalkeeper after a good ball inside the box.
The two missed chances from India meant the teams went into the half-time break goalless.
It pretty much continued in the same way in the second half, which also saw the floodlights going off for a couple of minutes, as both teams failed to failed to find the target.
Hoping to break the deadlock, both India and Lebanon rang in a few changes, but to no avail as the score remained unchanged till the final whistle.
India had kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 win over Mongolia last Friday before beating Vanuatu 1-0 three days later on Monday.
Lebanon too had started with a victory, beating Vanuatu 3-1 before playing out a goalless draw against Mongolia on Monday.
Despite the goalless draw, Stimac said he was happy with the way things went.
“Very happy with the boys’ performance. We knew we would be tested a couple of times, and that’s exactly what happened. When you play against better-quality opponents, that will happen.
“Another clean sheet, enough chances to win big, and in the end, I’m just sorry for the boys, it didn’t happen. Next time, we will surely win in three days’ time,” he said.
The tempo of the game was largely controlled by India, but Lebanon looked threatening on the counter. In the 10th minute, captain Hassan Maatouk swerved near the edge of the box before lashing a powerful strike over the bar.
On another such break forward, Karim Darwich had a clear sight of goal but Jhingan put his body on the line just as the Lebanese player pulled the trigger.
Jhingan, who was adjudged the Player of the Match, said, “As a centre-back, a clean sheet means a lot to you. As a team, if you can keep a clean sheet, it builds the momentum for the side. Credit to the team and coaching staff, we work hard, create chances, and the sky’s the limit for us.”
Topics mentioned in this article