India play out a goalless draw against neighbours Nepal in international friendly
India played out a goalless draw against Nepal in the international friendly at the Balewadi stadium in Pune. India had the best chances in the match, but were unable to break down a resolute Nepal defence.
India made a number of changes from the last time they played, bringing in Pritam Kotal, Dhanpal Ganesh, Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das, Francis Fernandes, Pronoy Halder, and Jeje Lalpekhlua into the starting 11. Halder became the 496th player to represent the Indian senior team in an International match. Nepal started the game with two players who played in the recently concluded U-19 SAFF Championships.
Nepal started the game on the front foot as they won an early corner in the first few minutes of the match and India had their first chance of the game in the 4th minute with Robin Singh stretched, but failed to get his head on the ball. India were dominating the match, but the Nepal defence was holding firm to restrict India to shots from distance.
India were looking dangerous and played most of their football in Nepal's half. Such was India's dominance that the average position of the players was near the half way line. Nepal goalkeeper, Kiran Chemjong, made two outstanding save first from Jeje and then Robin Singh.
The best chance of the game came right before halftime when Eugeneson Lyngdoh played Sunil Chhetri through on goal. The striker sent the keeper the wrong way, but his shot was off target as well. The top scorer for India would have scored that chance nine times out of ten, but unfortunately, this was the tenth time. Both teams went into the break with the score 0-0 at half-time.
Constantine made five changes in the second half
In the second half, Stephen Constantine took off Subrata Pal and brought on Karanjit Singh to replace him, with the former handing the captaincy to Sunil Chhetri. The 29-year-old was called into action within a minute when he caught the ball off a corner as Nepal tried to attack in the opening minutes of the half.
A few minutes later, Lyngdoh was replaced by another debutant, Rowlin Borges while I-League player of the year Jackichand Singh came on for Fernandes. With India still struggling to break down the stubborn Nepali defence, Constantine brought on CK Vineeth as well.
Jhingan got on the end of a Jackichand corner, but he couldn't direct his header goalwards while Vineeth’s shot was well saved by the goalkeeper. As the last throw of the dice, Cavin Lobo was brought on to replace Halder.
Lobo created a chance for himself after he went past two players and struck a brilliant shot goalwards. The keeper saved the initial shot, but Robin Singh was late to react to the rebound. Bharat Thapa cleared it in time as Robin tried to poach. The referee brought the match to a close soon after as the crowd gathered at the Balewadi stadium failed to witness a goal as the scoreline read India 0-0 Nepal after a pulsating 90 minutes.
India will now play against Iran in the World Cup Qualifiers on 8th September, but the team needs to be in better shape if they want to take on the best team in Asia.