After wins against Cambodia and Afghanistan, the Indian national football team looked set to defeat Hong Kong in their final group game of the ongoing qualifiers at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on June 14. The Hong Kong national team, too, have won both their previous encounters and the final group game seemed to be a perfect ending to the qualifiers.
Head coach Igor Stimac decided to make a few changes to the side that won against Afghanistan to add more to the structure that was developed in that encounter.
Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan started on the flanks, with Sahal Abdul Samad playing the number 10 role behind Sunil Chhetri. The Indian national football team started the match on the front foot. The first wave of attack was a well-constructed right-to-left switch that eventually ended up as a corner.
Naorem Roshan Singh decided to go for a short corner that fell for Ashique inside the box. Ashique's shot was blocked and the ball fell to Anwar Ali, who had some space from his marker and the defender blasted it past Hung-Fai Yapp in goal. It took him only two minutes to get the side into the lead.
The goal was followed by a few moments of beautiful one-touch passing football alongside using triads to open up spaces in the Hong Kong half of the field.
India's double-pivot of Suresh Wangjam and Jeakson Singh did not allow too much room for Hong Kong's Matthew Orr. The duo functioned well in screening the central channel on the defensive side of things.
Towards the end of the first-half, the Blue Tigers were awarded a free-kick close to left-flank. Jeakson Singh delivered the ball towards the far post, spotting Sunil Chhetri's run, and the skipper brought the ball down before sending it past the opposition goalkeeper. The goal allowed Igor Stimac's side some breathing space going into half-time.
India was on song against Hong Kong
The Blue Tigers started the second-half with the same intensity and there did not seem to be any change of plans. One of the things that aided India's dominance over Hong Kong was their pacy wingers, who combined well.
Igor Stimac made a few substitutions to introduce some fresh legs into the game. Glan Martins was introduced in place of Suresh Singh Wangjam. Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco were introduced in place of Sahal Abdul Samad and Udanta Singh.
Manvir did not take too long to find the back of the net. An attack set up by Roshan Singh followed a Brandon Fernandes cross into the box. The ball was delivered into space behind the defenders and allowed Manvir the freedom to score easily.
Ashique was brought off to be replaced by Ishan Pandita. With the Indian national football team up by 3-0, the game looked way off for Hong Kong. This is when India decided to add a fourth goal to their tally.
Manvir Singh intercepted a move on the right flank and played a one-touch move with Roshan that opened up space on the right flank. He then darted into space and spotted Ishan's run. Manvir delivered a low-cross and Pandita managed to flick it into the net. The scoreline summed up the entire game, securing a top-of-the-table finish for Igor Stimac's side.