India failed to repeat their Nehru Cup heroics against Tajikistan yet again as technically superior Tajiks got the better of India in the Intercontinental Cup 2019 opener by overturning a 2-0 deficit and eventually ran out 4-2 winners.
Sunil Chhetri put the Blue Tigers ahead from the spot before scoring again close to half-time. But post the break, the tables overturned as Tajikistan toyed around with a haplessly unorganized Indian defence and pumped in four quick goals from open play to emerge deserving winners.
Let us have a look at how the Indian team performed on an individual basis:
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (5/10): The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper had a good first-half but failed to replicate the same in the second-half. He failed to keep his backline intact and seldom communicated with his centre-backs leaving wide spaces at the back. His reaction time to some of the saveable attempts was also not the best.
Narender Gahlot (4/10): The youngster had a disastrous debut. Gahlot gave away the ball way too cheaply on numerous occasions. His tackles were also not clean enough. However, his distribution of the ball was amicable enough. Gahlot struggled in aerial duels as well given his height and was not comfortable in communicating with his defensive partner Adil Khan.
Rahul Bheke (6.5/10): The right-back was busy throughout the game. Almost all of the Tajikistan attacking moves were down the left flank keeping Bheke and Thapa engaged throughout the 90 minutes. Bheke did well to thwart most of those dangerous looking moves. He also moved up the pitch to cater to the needs of offence on the right wing and delivered in quite a number of quality crosses.
Adil Khan (7/10): Adil Khan had a brilliant first-half and an equally substandard second-half. He was brilliant in the air and displayed some robust tackles in the first half. However, his lack of pace and communication with his other defensive partner Narender Gahlot allowed Tajikistan to score 4 goals within no time at all.
Amarjit Singh Kiyam (6.5/10): The youngster had a decent outing in the field. His defensive and ball distribution skills were tested today and he delivered except on some occasions where he lost the ball under pressure.
Anirudh Thapa (6.5/10): Anirudh Thapa had a change of role today. Despite being placed at the right of the midfield, he was forced to track back and assist Rahul Bheke in containing the continuous Tajikistan onslaught down the right. He delivered in some decent balls from the middle of the park as well.
Mandar Rao Dessai (7/10): Dessai had an appreciable India debut. Neglected by the earlier management, Dessai did justice to his inclusion. Dessai along with Amarjit cut off the entire supply-line in the left wing forcing Tajikistan to go to the right wing. He played Chhangte through at the left flank which allowed India to get the first penalty.
Sahal Abdul Samad (7.5/10): Sahal Abdul Samad was adjudged the next big thing by Sunil Chhetri while the latter addressed the media before the King's Cup. He may not have had a good King's Cup but did show glimpses of individual brilliance in bits and pieces. Sahal continued the same against Tajikistan in the Intercontinental Cup opener. He beat his marker on several occasions with sheer trickery and created a good number of half chances as well.
Lallianzuala Chhangte (7/10): The left winger had pace and skills as usual. He outran some of the most physical Tajik players and was a menace on the left flank. His brilliant low ball allowed Chhetri to score India's second and final goal.
Udanta Singh (7/10): Udanta Singh is often known for his instant burst of pace and today was no exception. He combined brilliantly with Chhetri on counters against the run of play and was the brainchild behind the second India goal. His lofted ball away from every Tajik player caught them off-guard allowing Chhangte to pass to Chhetri who slotted it home. Udanta Singh also earned most of India's corners.
Sunil Chhetri (8/10): Always leading the team and leading by example, the game against Tajikistan was the exact same story for Chhetri. He stepped up to take the penalty kick, and delivered with a calm and composed Panenka. Chhetri further proved that age is no bar for him as he trapped a quick pass from Chhangte with a single touch and slotted it home for India's second goal. Chhetri could have scored a hattrick but he skied one sitter in the second-half.
Vinit Rai (6/10): Vinit Rai replaced Amarjit Singh Kiyam in the second-half and it left a gaping hole in front of the defensive back four. Vinit Rai seldom backtracked to assist the defence which resulted in unprecedented pressure on Adil Khan and Narender Gahlot.
Jerry Lalrinzuala (6/10): Lalrinzuala came after India conceded two quick goals in the second-half replacing Mandar Rao Dessai. His presence at the left did allow India more attacking options but there were no good moves worth mentioning.
Rowllin Borges (5/10): Rowlin Borges got little over 10 minutes under his belt and was not effective at all. He got one chance to score which he skied into the stands.
Farukh Chowdhary (N/A): He got 7 minutes of playing time and failed to make an impact.
Jobby Justin (N/A): He was not on the pitch long enough.
Manvir Singh (N/A): Was on the pitch for merely a few seconds.