India celebrated their qualification into the 2023 AFC Asian Cup with a 4-0 thrashing of Hong Kong in their final Qualifier at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday (June 14) night. Four different goalscorers got on the scoresheet for the Blue Tigers.
The rampage began less than a minute into the game. A short corner from the left saw Udanta Singh whip in a cross, which was attacked by Ashique Kuruniyan. The latter's shot was blocked by a defender but the ball fell straight to Anwar Ali who smashed it into the top corner from close range to make it 1-0.
Igor Stimac's side didn't churn out too many chances after that but kept Hong Kong at arm's length throughout. The Blue Tigers ultimately got their second goal at the stroke of half-time when Sunil Chhetri escaped his marker to reach Jeakson Singh's clipped free-kick.
Chhetri's control with his right foot was exquisite, the finish with his left was even better and India were up 2-0 seconds before the break.
Hong Kong improved in the second half but simply couldn't take their chances. The hosts, meanwhile, created a few good opportunities of their own but were let down by their indecisiveness in the final third.
India had to wait until the 85th minute for their third goal. Brandon Fernandes linked up well with Naorem Roshan Singh on the left before cutting the ball back into the box. Substitute Manvir Singh ghosted in behind the centre-backs and although his strike wasn't the cleanest, it beat the Hong Kong custodian.
The ATK Mohun Bagan forward turned provider in injury-time. Manvir Singh was released by Fernandes down the right and crossed it in for another substitute, Ishan Pandita. The ball seemed to be just behind Pandita, but his improvised flick trickled past the goal-line to make it 4-0 for the Blue Tigers.
It marked India's biggest win of the Stimac era and capped an incredible display that will fill the side with confidence ahead of the AFC Asian Cup.
Here are the Indian team's player ratings from a brilliant victory:
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu - 6/10
It was a comfortable outing once again for Sandhu, who had little to do in the Indian goal barring a few regulation saves.
Akash Mishra - 6.5/10
Mishra owned his flank and was a constant menace to the Hong Kong defense. There were multiple occasions where he beat all the defenders in his way to get to the final third. Mishra was also solid in defense and didn't let too much get past him.
Anwar Ali - 7.5/10
Ali was composure personified when on the ball and didn't let anything get past him. He also got some help from Mishra, who dropped in to help defend the left side of the backline. Ali took his goal brilliantly as well and set the tone for India's excellent display.
Sandesh Jhingan - 6/10
Jhingan seemed to have things under control for most of the game, though he was dragged out of position at times.
Naorem Roshan Singh - 5.5/10
Roshan Singh was definitely a factor going forward but often left too much space behind him. Most of Hong Kong's attacks came from his flank and this meant Jhingan had to go over to the winger, leaving spaces in the box.
Suresh Singh Wangjam - 7/10
Wangjam was brilliant during the first half, barring an unnecessary foul that brought him a yellow card. He was incredibly composed on the ball and linked up excellently with Jeakson Singh while frequently breaking up Hong Kong's attacks. Wangjam also won the free-kick for his side's second goal.
Jeakson Singh - 8/10
Jeakson Singh was one of India's best players against Hong Kong. He kept things ticking in midfield, never shied away from tackles and also got a delicious assist for Chhetri's goal before half-time.
Udanta Singh - 6.5/10
Udanta Singh was bright on the flanks and his cross was key in the build-up to India's opener. He was particularly potent when the Blue Tigers looked to hit Hong Kong on the counter with his pace proving to be an incredible asset.
Sahal Abdul Samad - 6/10
Abdul Samad didn't get as involved as he would've liked, though he did release a thunderbolt of a shot that cannoned back off the crossbar. He didn't make much of an impact after the break.
Ashique Kuruniyan - 6.5/10
Kuruniyan's pace caused all sorts of problems for Hong Kong and he was also involved in the first goal. The winger worked hard defensively as well, which could serve him well going forward.
Sunil Chhetri - 7/10
Chhetri endured a slightly frustrating opening half hour, finding himself offside on a couple of occasions. However, quality players find a way and his goal, the 84th of his incredible international career, oozed class right from the run to the finish.
Glan Martins - 6/10
Martins replaced Wangjam at half-time. He didn't have the same kind of impact but did okay.
Manvir Singh - 8.5/10
Manvir Singh came on for Udanta Singh in the 61st minute. He didn't strike the ball as cleanly as he should've but got his goal regardless, while also recording an assist with a decent cross. It was an excellent cameo from the winger.
Liston Colaco - 6/10
Colaco replaced Samad in the 61st minute. He had a few good dribbles and caused Hong Kong a few problems but didn't do enough in the final third.
Brandon Fernandes - 7.5/10
Fernandes seemed to add plenty of creative quality to India's midfield after replacing Chhetri in the 77th minute. He got the assist for the third goal and played an excellent pass to Manvir Singh for the fourth goal as well.
Ishan Pandita - 7/10
Pandita seems to score only in injury-time. He got only around 10 minutes on the pitch, but found the net with a cheeky back-flick to seal an emphatic Indian victory.