Indians break 11-year-old jinx

Team Udayavani, Mar 23, 2017, 11:34 AM IST

Phnom Penh (Cambodia): The Indian football team on Wednesday broke an 11-year-old jinx of not winning a match away from home as they beat lower ranked Cambodia 3-2 in an international friendly.

Playing in their first international friendly of the year, India — currently at 132 in the world — were given a tough fight by the Cambodians, who are 41 places below them.

The last time India emerged victorious in an away international friendly was way back in 2006, when the team captained by Shanmugam Venkatesh eked out a solitary goal win over Pakistan.

Stephen Constantine’s boys played a lacklustre first half but then regrouped in the second session to pump in two quick goals in the space of three minutes. The win will boost the side ahead of their opening game of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers against Myanmar on March 28.

Sunil Chhetri (35th minute), Jeje Lalpekhlua (49th) and Sandesh Jhingan (52nd) found the target for India, while Cambodia scored through Khoun Laboravy (36th) and Chan Vathanaka (62nd).

A spell of three minutes immediately after the interval settled the issue for India, which witnessed international debuts for Anas Edathodika and Milan Singh.

The two substitutions at the interval — Sandesh Jhingan and Jeje Lalpekhlua — did the trick. The duo made an instant impact, scoring two goals, and despite Cambodia desperately throwing men in attack during the later stages, India managed to hold on for the win.

Constantine began with Chhetri and Robin Singh in the attack. The Indian defence was porous in the first session with the Cambodians creating chances from counter attacks.

But Jhingan’s introduction changed the scenario and also gave thrust to the attack. The Cambodians got two good attempts in the eighth and 17th minutes with the Indian defence caught napping but on both occasions. However, Vathanaka failed to convert the chances. He smashed one over the bar, while his second attempt ended straight at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Indian goal.

The Indians lived dangerously for some time but they slowly settled down and then took the lead against the run of play through Chhetri in the 35th minute.

The Indian lead lasted just a minute but Jeje and Jhingan came in the second half and changed the complexion of the match with India dominating the home side to emerge victors.

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