Intercontinental Cup 2019: India vs Tajikistan, 5 hits and flops

Anirudh Thapa was the vital cog in India's midfield
Anirudh Thapa was the vital cog in India's midfield

India went down 2-4 to a spirited Tajikistan side at the Trans Stadia in Ahmedabad on Sunday evening. India dictated terms in the first half and went to the dugout with a two-goal lead, but lost the plot in the second period. Sunil Chhetri scored a brace, putting the vociferous spectators at their feet, but the party was short lived.

Tajikistan reply was strong, scoring a couple of goals early in the second half. The goals swung the game in their favour. The visitors took the lead in the 71st minute, while they netted a fourth later to pile of India’s misery.

India will be looking forward to staying alive in the four-nation tournament with a win in their next encounter on July 13 against North Korea. Meanwhile, Tajikistan will play their next match against Syria on July 10 at the same venue.

Let us have a look at the 5 hits and flops from the match between Indian and Tajikistan

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#5 Anirudh Thapa (Hit)

Indian playmakers produced a top-notch performance from the starting whistle itself. The combination of Sahal Samad and Anirudh Thapa reaped results early in the game, the move which earned India a spot kick which resulted in the first goal.

Anirudh Thapa was the commander-in-chief in the midfield, the real backbone of the Indian team. Amarjit Singh Kiyam also supported Thapa, while Udanta Singh was lightning fast with his runs down the right as usual. Lallinzuala Chaangte also complemented from the other side.

Even when the entire back-line was in shambles, the playmakers, spearheaded by Anirudh, managed to produce sparks of brilliance. The Chennaiyin FC player has evolved as a player in the past few months starting from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, taking up a more responsible role for the 'Blue Tigers.'

#4 Sunil Chhetri (Hit)

Sunil Chhetri was exceptional during the game, as usual
Sunil Chhetri was exceptional during the game, as usual

Indian football’s poster boy once again proved why he still has a few years left in him at the top level. The forward displayed a clinical performance on Sunday night, but it was not enough to steer his nation to a victory in the opening tie of the Hero Continental Cup.

Chhetri converted from the spot kick in the fourth minute with a ‘Panenka’, having placed it in the top right corner of the target with guile, sending the keeper to the opposite side. It was Chhetri’s 69th goal for his national side, a remarkable feat in world football.

The second goal was even better, having found the ball inside the box, Sunil made the perfect finish. Sunil held the ball for a moment and placed it inside the net with an outstepping shot intersecting two Tajikistan’s defender to double the lead.

#3 Narender Gehlot (Flop)

Narender Gehlot needs more time to settle in the starting XI
Narender Gehlot needs more time to settle in the starting XI

India had a pretty decent first 45 minutes but lost the plot completely in the second half. The flurry of goals from the opposition started in the 56th minute, followed by a second just three minutes later. Giving away cheap goals has been the main reason for the disastrous end to the game against Tajikistan.

Igor Stimac fielded a relatively inexperienced defence, starting with Adil Khan and debutant Narender Gehlot at the centre. The duo never seemed too comfortable and often messed up at the critical positions. The occasion might have got the better of young Gehlot, he needs more time to settle himself in the playing XI.

The defence collapsed entirely in the second period. If their first goal was against the run of play, the next one proved how helpless the centre backs were at crucial moments. The third and fourth goals followed, there was no communication between the defenders.

#2 Abdul Sahal Samad (Hit)

Image result for sahal abdul samad india

The youngster hogged the limelight in the King's Cup earlier this year. Igor Stimac showed faith in him once again and fielded him on Sunday night. Sahal did not let him down. The Kerela Blasters FC player was a livewire in the midfield and was the main supplier of the ball to the final third.

Sahal’s intelligent play initiated the move, Madar Desai’s pass found Chhangte who was brought down inside the box. Not only was he effective with his fancy skills, but the playmaker was also useful in snatching the ball away from the opponent's feet and gain possession on many occasions.

Even though India lost, there were a few positives which from the game, Sahal's dominance in the midfield was one of them. It is expected that the ISL Emerging Player of the Season will play a vital part in the rest of the tournament.

#1 Adil Khan (Flop)

Adil Khan had a game to forget, along with other defenders
Adil Khan had a game to forget, along with other defenders

Losing the game after enjoying a two-goal lead during the half-time is not a healthy sign for the Indian football team. It’s true that India played with an inexperienced side, but the fact is they need to hold their nerves on big occasions. That is what which differentiates a good team from an ordinary team.

Adil Khan tried his heart out to avert the danger as far as possible, but it was below par. Even though Tajik players were kept at bay in the first 45 minutes, the Indian players had no answers in the second half. His communication skills with Narender Gehlot was very poor, an area which needs to be improved.

India will face North Korea on July 13 in a must-win match. Igor Stimac has to make amends before his players take the field next time. A few changes in the starting XI is expected from the European tactician for Saturday's fixture.

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Edited by Aaditya Narayan
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