AFC Asian Cup Qualifier: Jeje, Jackichand star as India thrash Laos 6-1 to qualify for next round
India went through to the next round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers thanks to a 6-1 thrashing of Laos, triumphing 7-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 first leg win. The hosts were actually shocked in the first half when Laos scored, but a late flurry of goals in both halves with Jeje grabbing a brace, while Passi and Cardozo grabbed goals on debut.
India Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Gurpreet Singh Sandhu(GK); Keegan Pereira, Arnab Mondal, Sandesh Jhingan, Rino Anto; Udanta Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Md. Rafique, Sunil Chhetri (C),Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sumeet Passi.
Laos Starting XI(4-3-3): Sengphachan(GK); Phachanhtha, Phonsetta, Moukda; Phattana, Khochalern, Souliyavong, Manolom; Sihavong, Khantavong, Khampeng(C).
India made a nervous start to the first half and despite fielding a very strong line up conceded an early goal in the 16thminute. Coach Constantine benched Jackiechand Singh and Holicharan Narzary while Keegan Pereira became India’s 23rddebutant since Englishmen Stephen Constantine took over for the second time.
The Mumbai player did not disappoint in his debut as he took two brilliant free kick from the right wing in the 8th and the 19th minute, our man of the moment, Jeje Lalpekhlua missed two easy chances on both the occasions.
With both teams playing 4-3-3 formation, India’s defence line led by veteran Sandesh Jhingan and Arnab Mondol failed to impress early on they mostly left India’s defensive third empty. The intent was surely to attack right from the word go with goalkeeper Sandhu being the only guy inside India’s half, but this turned out to be a little expensive for the team as they conceded the early goal.
Sitthideth Khanthavong was left unmarked and a wide defensive gap cut him loose. With Indian defenders trying hard to get back into the space, Khanthavong crossed the ball in and Khongesavanh Sihavong netted the ball.
The gaol kind of stabilized the Indian team, which as of now looked under confident and sloppy. The gaol forced India to make some really good moves but they failed to finish any of them. Meanwhile, Laos made some really good counter attacks off and on but none of them could threaten India’s man on the post, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
India’s fortune changed in the 40th minute when the first substitution of the match took place with Jackichand Singh coming in place of Udanta Singh. Three minutes later Jeje, who missed quite a few chances, scored the equalizer for India. Three minutes later, Sumeet Passi gave India lead with a beautiful goal. Super sub Jackichand Singh assisted both the gaols and turned India’s fortunes around under super humid conditions.
India started the second half on a very attacking note with Jeje making a beautiful ball for Sumeet Passi. The later took the ball on the run with a brilliant hit only for the keeper to stop. But a goal was evident here for India and it came from an unlikely source when defender Sandesh Jhinghan headed the ball off a free kick by Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Even the scorer was in disbelief.
Laos, who are ranked much below the Indian team tried very hard to resist the Indian attacking wave that erupted after the halftime, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made it impossible for them to bounce back into the game.
India further strengthened their grip on the game when Sumeet Passi, who has been brilliant throughout the match crossed in a beautiful cross to Jeje in the 35th minute and the Mohun Bagan striker left no stones unturned to score his second goal of the match.
As the 2500 odd spectator were in for a treat as the fifth goal of the match followed soon with forward Mohammad Rafique joined in the party after captain cool Sunil Chhetri very smartly crossed the ball.
If this wasn’t enough, the second debutant of the match Fulganco Cardozo scored the sixth goal in the 87th minute to further humiliate the team ranked 174th in the current FIFA rankings. Meanwhile Jeje continued his quest for the hattrick and came ridiculously close to getting it, but could not just get it.
India thoroughly dominated the match, only after the first goal of the match, and maintained a healthy possession of 58% and sailed into the Round of 24 match Qualifying stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.