Guam 0-4 India – Sunil Chhetri bags brace in second half rout
Guam 0-4 India (Sunil 49, 90+1, Clifford 68, Jewel 80)
India lineup: Subrata Pal; Denzil Franco, Gouramangi Singh, Raju Gaikwad, Gurjinder Kumar; Syed Rahim Nabi (Francis Fernandes 46), Lenny Rodrigues (Arata Izumi 61), Mehtab Hossain, Clifford Miranda (CK Vineeth 75), Jewel Raja, Sunil Chhetri.
Four second-half goals saw India thrash minnows Guam 4-0 in their second Group A match of the AFC Challenge Cup 2014 qualifiers in Yangon, Myanmar on Monday. After failing to break the deadlock in the first half, India went ahead early in the second half through skipper Sunil Chhetri.
Midfielders Clifford Miranda and Jewel Raja also got on the scoresheet, and Sunil completed the rout in second half stoppage time to give Wim Koevermans’ side the heavy win that they were looking for.
Koevermans made just two changes to the lineup that started in the narrow win over Chinese Taipei as reigning AIFF Player of the Year Syed Rahim Nabi replaced Francis Fernandes in the right side of midfield, while Nirmal Chettri made way for Denzil Franco at right back.
Surprisingly though, the Dutchman once again started with just Sunil upfront in a 4-4-1-1 system despite needing to win this game by a huge margin, as Myanmar had thrashed Guam 5-0 in their opener.
The plan to play with just one striker certainly didn’t pay off in the first half, as despite dominating possession India failed to open the scoring.
Guam, who are placed 14 spots below India at 181st in the FIFA rankings, were determined to avoid another embarrassment and they certainly achieved their target in the first period as it remained goalless at halftime.
Worryingly, Nabi was replaced by Francis at the start of the second half, but India found the opener just four minutes after the restart through skipper Sunil. The Delhi lad found himself free behind the Guam defence and coolly found the back of the net to score his first international goal since August 2012.
A one-goal margin win clearly wasn’t going to be good enough for India, as only the group winners qualify automatically, with two other best second-placed teams joining them.
Koevermans made a positive change by bringing on the more attack-minded Japanese-born Arata Izumi in place of Lenny Rodrigues in central midfield.
India’s positive attitude paid off, as the experienced Clifford Miranda netted his tenth international strike to double his team’s advantage.
Clifford was replaced by young CK Vineeth as Koevermans introduced some more fresh legs to increase the margin in the closing stages.
Mohun Bagan midfielder Jewel scored the third in the 80th minute. The 23-year old netted for the second straight game and has certainly repaid Koevermans’ faith in him.
Despite India’s three-goal lead, Guam won more corners in the game, but having conceded against Chinese Taipei from a set-piece, Koevermans’ side showed much more organisation at the back to keep their first clean sheet in four matches.
In the first minute of second-half stoppage time, Sunil bagged his second from a Mehtab Hossain corner. It was the 28-year-old’s 37th goal for India.
The 4-0 win over Guam is India’s biggest victory on foreign soil since 2008 when they thrashed Nepal 4-0 in the SAFF Cup, and the result certainly keeps alive India’s chances of qualifying for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup automatically. They next face hosts Myanmar on Wednesday.