Turkmenistan beat India 2-1 in the final World Cup qualifier at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday evening despite missing eight first team players. The Blue Tigers had taken the lead through Sandesh Jhingan in the first half before two second half goals from Arslan and Atayev Serdarali saw Turkmenistan come away with all three points.
India: Gurpreet Singh, Augustin, Arnab Mondal, Sandesh Jhingan, Pritam Kotal, Narayan Das, Cavin Lobo, Pronay Halder, Udanta Singh, Rowllin Borges, Jeje Lalpekhlua
Turkmenistan: Orazmuhammedov, Annamyradov, Saparov, Baltayev, Arslan, Orazov, Guvanch, Durdyyev, Astanov, Gevorkyan, Babajanov
India keep possession but struggle in final third
When the starting lineups were announced, it seemed like India coach Stephen Constantine was going to deploy the Blue Tigers in a 5-4-1 formation with three centre-backs and two wing-backs. But they soon settled down into a 4-4-1-1 formation with Jeje leading the line.
India tried to press the visitors up the pitch but failed to make good use of the ball in the final third. While the midfield was able to move forward with the ball, there was simply no movement from their teammates to get into the passing lanes and create opportunities.
Frustrated with the lack of movement, both Narayan Das and Cavin Lobo had long-range shots on goal in the first 15 minutes but neither shot troubled the goalkeeper as they sailed well over the bar. Turkmenistan also had their chances early in the first half; a soft header was eaily caught by Gurpreet while Turkmenistan captain Arslan, who beat the defence for pace could not find a way past Gurpreet.
Jhingan gives India the lead after Turkmenistan miss penalty
But Arslan’s speed on a counter-attack soon saw him cut into the box and was brought down by Kotal. The referee poitned to the spot but Arslan hesitated on his run up, eventually putting the spot kick wide of Gurpreet’s right post.
While the Indian defenders struggled with the visitors’ pace on the break, Jhingan stood strong, making two crucial tackles in India’s box within the span of 30 seconds to clear the danger. And he soon delivered at the other end too when India won a free-kick.
Narayan Das’s delivery into the box found Sandesh Jhingan whose leap was perfectly timed and he managed to get his header to loop over the goalkeeper. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar before going in to give India a 1-0 lead and the defender his first international goal.
Surprisingly, in spite of a number of openings when India had the ball, Constantine’s men showed no urgency in attack. Although it was understandable considering the 1-0 lead, at the same time they were attempting risky long balls over the defence instead to find a way through as they refused to commit men forward.
And India were almost punished for their laid-back attitude. Astanov Umidjan let fly a screamer from outside the box that did catch Gurpreet off guard. Luckily for the Stabæk goalkeeper, the effort whistled past the woodwork but it woke up the Indian side before the half-time whistle.
Half-time: India 1-0 Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan hit back in the second half
The visitors needed only three minutes from kickoff in the second half to grab an equaliser. A simple lobbed cross into the six-yard box from Gevorkyan Artur saw Gurpreet completely misjudge the flight of the ball. Arslan, who missed a penalty earlier, made amends with a simple header from close range after stealing in behind Gurpreet and a ball-watching Kotal to equalise.
Constantine then replaced Lobo with Holicharan Narzary and he looked to liven up India’s attack as they searched for a second goal. Both sides struggled to get shots on target in the second half in spite of a couple of counter-attacking moves from either side. Udanta Singh, who made a few promising runs down the right was soon taken off for Seityasen Singh.
Turkmenistan then scored a second to take the lead after some terrible defending from India. Half-time substitute Atayev Serdarali was put through into the box after the Indian defence left a huge gap in the back line.
Gurpreet rushed out for the block and Atayev simply dribbled his way past him. With no defender coming out to make the block, his low shot found the far bottom corner as a hapless defence tried to recover.
India then made their final substitution with Mohammed Rafique coming on for the already booked Rowllin Borges, who was a bit reckless after his yellow card in the first half. The substitutes looked to increase India’s tempo with Seityasen seeing a well-drilled effort saved by goalkeeper Orazmuhammedov.
Bizarrely, India took most of their corner kicks short when they had their defenders in the box, failing to make use of the aerial prowess that got them the goal in the first half. Towards the end of the game, the visitors also resorted to time-wasting tactics to run down the clock.
Ultimately, Turkmenistan managed to control the game in the face of waves of Indian attacks to finish this round of qualifiers with four wins while India finished bottom of the group with only a solitary win over Guam.Published 29 Mar 2016, 17:14 IST