Hero Intercontinental Cup 2019: India 1-1 Syria: 5 Talking points as Blue Tigers impress
The Blue Tigers lost their first match of the competition 4-2 to Tajikstan and followed it up with another loss to DPR Korea, this time the scoreline worsening to 5-2.
On the other hand, Syria started the tournament with a 5-2 win over DPR Korea but followed it up with a 2-0 loss to Tajikstan.
Narender Gahlot opened the scoring on the night with a brilliant header while Syria skipper Firas Alkhatib equalized with a penalty conceded by substitute Jerry Lalrinzuala.
Let's look at the five talking points from the match.
#1 Rahul Bheke should be first choice right back
With Sandesh Jhingan injuring his hamstring and Adil Khan suspended for the third match of the tournament, Igor Stimac was forced to start with the partnership of 18-year old Narender Gahlot and makeshift centre back Rahul Bheke in the centre of defence.
Pritam Kotal started at right back while FC Goa skipper Mandar Rao Dessai started on the opposite flank.
While Kotal was decent and average at right back, Bheke split the Syria defense with exquisite passes from centre back.
With the Bengaluru FC defender's raw pace and skills, the 28-year old should be the first choice at right back when Jhingan or Adil or Anas is available to partner Gahlot in the centre of the defense.
#2 Narender Gahlot: An exciting prospect
Narender Gahlot, making his debut for the Indian team, read the game well and was appreciated by the commentators and crowd alike for showing maturity well beyond his age.
He scored the India's only goal in the match in the 51st minute. The young defender headed an Anirudh Thapa corner in the far corner scoring the first goal of the tournament from a corner. It was also his first ever international goal.
In fact, the 18-year old defender scored his first ever goal at professional level for club/country with the brilliant header.
#3 Amarjit Singh Kiyam puts in a passionate performance
The midfield pairing of Anirudh Thapa and Amarjit Singh Kiyam in front of the four-man defense proved to be the difference from the first two matches. Both the midfielders worked hard and won balls for the hosts on many occasions during the match.
The Jamshedpur FC midfielder allowed Thapa to play his natural game as he played the role of the enforcer for the Blue Tigers. He went into many challenges with a big heart and came out with the ball keeping India in control of the proceedings.
#4 Syria's poor finishing cost them a place in the final
Syria had 17 shots at goal while the hosts had only 3 shots at goals during the 90 minutes of the match.
At the half hour mark, a mistake by Narender Gahlot allowed Syria skipper Alkhatib to go through on goal and he missed to score from a one-on-one opportunity.
After India scored through Gahlot, the visitors had a lot of opportunities but they failed to convert any as the penalty conceded by Lalrinzuala proved to be their savior.
Ultimately, Syrian team's wastefulness proved to be their undoing as they were knocked out of the Intercontinental Cup after securing 4 points over 3 games.
#5 The trio of Udanta, Chhangte, and Samad impressed behind Chhetri
In the opening minutes of the match, Udanta Singh carved out the Syrian defence with an excellent run down the right wing and then provided an excellent cross in the six-yard box which wasn't met by anybody in the penalty area.
Lallianzuala Chhangte is the much needed addition to an Indian attack that has been over reliant on Sunil Chhetri over the past few years. The Mizoram winger's explosive pace helps unsettle the opposition defenses.
Sahal Abdul Samad was impressive playing just behind the striker as he linked up the midfield and the explosive front three.
Brandon Fernandes and Jobby Justin coming off the bench with this front four starting could be the ideal remedy for the Indian team in upcoming World Cup qualifiers.