India beat Bangladesh 2-0 in their seventh game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Doha. But they were already out of the reckoning for the competition before the game.
It was a must-win game for India to secure a direct third round qualification spot for the Asian Cup 2023 in China, something they were able to achieve.
Bangladesh started the game well, but soon India assumed control of proceedings. Chingelsana Singh nearly scored in the 34th minute from a Brandon Fernandes corner. But Riyadul Rafi made an excellent goal-line clearance as the first half ended goalless.
The second half started with India making two changes; Ashique and Md. Yasir came on in place of Bipin Singh and Udanta Singh. The Blue Tigers continued asking questions and eventually opened the scoring in the 79th minute via a Sunil Chhetri header. Chhetri completed his brace in injury time to add some gloss to the scoreline.
On that note, let's take a look at four things we learned from the game.
#1 India manager Igor Stimac's substitutes work wonders
India had a frustrating first half. The Blue Tigers opened up the Bangladeshi defence on just one occasion with a set-piece, which was saved on the goal-line by Riyadul.
The team's manager Igor Stimac made two changes - bring on Ashique and Yasir - at the start of the second half, which worked wonders. Bangladesh found it difficult to handle Ashique's pace and Yasir's tricky runs. Ashique turned provider for Sunil Chhetri's first goal, with his perfectly curled cross headed in by the Indian captain from an acute angle.
The second goal India scored had a lot to do with Colaco winning the ball in midfield and playing a nice through ball to Suresh.
#2 India captain Sunil Chhetri leads from the front
India were staring at another draw with Bangladesh. The last three games that India played with their eastern neighbour ended in draws.
But in the 79th minute, Ashique Kuruniyan put in a delicious bending cross into the box. Sunil Chhetri beat his marker Topu Barman to head home from an acute angle. The goal brought a wide smile on the face of Igor Stimac. Before that, Chhetri had missed two sitters, both headers.
Sunil Chhetri wasn't done for the night, though. In the 92nd minute, he finished the game off in style by scoring from a cut-back from Suresh Singh.
#3 Brandon Fernandes, the heartbeat of the Indian midfield
Brandon Fernandes has been India's best player in the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, without a doubt.
Against Bangladesh, he once again proved his worth. His pass in the first half, which opened up the Bangladesh defence, was worthy of a goal, but Manvir Singh squandered the opportunity.
Fernandes' deliveries from set-pieces were world-class on the day. But Sandesh Jhingan, Chingelsana Singh, Sunil Chhetri and Subhasish Bose were guilty of missing free headers from Brandon's set pieces.
Brandon Fernandes' passing and crossing are key for India. With every passing game, he is raising the bar.
#4 Bangladesh's defensive approach proves to be their undoing
James Day, the coach of the Bangladesh team, has been receiving a lot of criticism for being ultra-defensive in his tactics. While those tactics work against the likes of Qatar or Oman, the Green and Red could try and have a more aggressive approach against teams from the SAFF region.
The first leg tie between India and Bangladesh played in 2019 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata saw the visitors threaten the Indian goal on multiple occasions.
On the day, though, Bangladesh hardly threatened the Indian goalkeeper. The three Indian centre-backs, in fact, had more work to do at the other end, but they were guilty of missing free headers.
Jamal Bhuyan, used as a deep-lying playmaker, was neutralised by Glan Martins, who closed down the Danish-born Bangladesh captain whenever he got the ball.