India beat Guam 1-0 at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru to get their first win in the World Cup qualifiers. Robin Singh scored the solitary goal in the first half and the Blue tigers managed to hold on in spite of being down to 10 men with Sehnaj Singh sent off for a straight red card.
INDIA: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Sandesh Jhingan, Arnab Mondal, Narayan Das, Romeo Fernandes, Sehnaj Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Cavin Lobo, Sunil Chhetri (C), Robin Singh
GUAM: Douglas Herrick, Mason Douglas, John Matkin, Justin David, Jason Cunliffe, Ryan Guy, Brandon Marquee, Shawn Nicklaw, Adolph Delagarza, Marcus Lopez, Shane Andre Malcolm
First Half: Robin Singh gives India the lead but Sehnaj is sent off
The match itself was delayed by a few minutes as the floodlights on one side of the ground failed to kick in. As the teams lined up, the Bengaluru fans in the famous West Block A unfurled a massive banner which was easily more than 5000 square feet.
When the match did kick off, it was Guam who had the early runnings and India conceded a corner as early as the first minute of the game. Guam did have a few set pieces with shots on goal but Gurpreet Singh was up to the task, making comfortable saves.
India’s first real chance came when Sunil Chhetri made a run down the left before his cross was cleared for a corner. Eugenseon Lyngdoh then had a shot on goal from outside the box but his attempt was saved by Guam goalkeeper Douglas Herrick.
Robin Singh then gave India the lead when Chhetri found him in the box. Robin turned his marker and curled an effort towards goal which beat the keeper and found the back of the net.
India looked the more threatening side through the early exchanges as they launched attack after attack. Guam proved to be a threat only on set pieces with Shane Malcolm, John Matkin and Shawn Nicklaw troubling the Indian defence outside the box on a number of occasions.
Sehnaj Singh was then shown a straight red card for a foul on Justin David and the defender had to make the long walk back in the rain for an early shower. That proved to be the last major act in the game with Guam coach Gary White looking none too pleased with his side’s effort in the first half on a pitch wet with torrential rain for the first 45 minutes.
Second Half: 10-man India hold on for the win
The second half saw the rain cease to a slow drizzle as playing conditions improved. Stephen Constantine made a change as Harmanjot Singh Khabra came on as a half-time substitute for Romeo in a bid to strengthen the midfield after Sehnaj’s sending off.
It was Guam who had more of the possession as the second half got underway due to the man advantage. And Robin Singh was working his socks off to close down Guam’s defenders whenever they had the ball. On one attacking move, Arnab Mondal made a great tackle in the box to deny Guam an opportunity on goal. Meanwhile, Gurpreet was assured in goal whenever Guam had a corner.
Constantine then took off Robin Singh, who seemed to be hobbling after a tackle, to a rapturous applause from the fans in the stadium. He was replaced by Jeje Lalpekhlua in the 61st minute as Guam continued to pepper the Indian box with crosses, with the odd shot or header being held by Gurpreet’s safe hands. White then tried to change things by taking off forward Matkin for midfielder Dylan Naputi.
India then had a penalty call waved away by the referee when Guam goalkeeper Herrick seemed to bring down a sprinting Chhetri inside the box. But the referee deemed Herrick to have got to the ball first and allowed Guam to play on.
Cavin Lobo and Harmanjot Khabra then tried to combine on the right with a couple of one-twos. Lobo tried to take a shot on goal from range but his effort was not strong enough to beat the goalkeeper.
Guam then thought they had equalized when they got the ball in the back of the net from a Marcuz Lopez shot, but their celebrations were short-lived as the linesman ruled out the goal because the initial cross had gone out of play before it swung back in for the shot on goal. After a brief discussion with the linesman, the referee awarded India a goal kick, much to the distress of Guam coach White on the touchline.
At the other end, Chhetri tested goalkeeper Herrick with a stinging shot after he was released down the left flank. The captain’s shot was parried away for a corner and Lyngdoh’s corner kick almost found its way into goal before a timely clearance saw Guam clear the danger. In the absence of Robin, it was Chhetri making India’s attacking forays into Guam’s half worthwhile, coming very close to scoring a second with a long-range curler that beat the goalkeeper but was inches away from the far post.
With three minutes added on after the ninety, Guam had a corner which was cleared by Sandesh Jhingan with a powerful header which set India on a counter-attack. That proved to be the last piece of major action as the referee blew the whistle to give India a famous win in Bengaluru.