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Asian Cup qualifiers: Chhetri nets 2 in India's win over Bangla (Ld)

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Doha, June 7 (IANS) India captain Sunil Chhetri on Monday struck twice in the closing minutes to hand India a 2-0 win over Bangladesh to revive his team’s prospects of advancing from Group E of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers. The first-half had ended goalless.

Chhetri scored in the 79th and 90th minutes to give India their first win in Group E and three points. The win gave a boost to India’s hopes of sealing a place in the third round.

India are only fighting to qualify for the Asian Cup, as they are out of contention for the 2022 World Cup.

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India now have six points from seven matches and are placed third in the group. They have lost three matches and three games have ended in draws. Qatar continue to lead Group E with 19 points from seven matches, thanks to their six wins. Oman have 12 points from five matches and are second.

Afghanistan are placed fourth, below India, with five pints from six matches and Bangladesh are fifth in the five-team group with two points from seven matches. Bangladesh are the only team to have not won a match.

India next play Afghanistan in their last group league match on June 15 at the same venue, Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

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Chhetri broke the deadlock when he headed in Ashique Kuruniyan’s cross from the left. He then sealed the result by curling in a shot from long range in added time.

Coach Igor Stimac made three changes from the Indian side that lost to Qatar in the last match.

India looked more threatening at the start against a Bangladesh side who were playing with Rakib Hossain as a lone striker. India should have done better in the seventh minute when Bipin Singh wasted an opportunity off Brandon Fernandes’ corner.

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Bangladesh, who came from behind to claim a 1-1 draw against Afghanistan on Thursday, got into the action a minute later after M. Rahmat Mia’s long throw-in was flicked on by Hossain inside the danger area but under pressure Tariq Kazi couldn’t control the ball.

India wasted a golden opportunity to get ahead in the 14th minute when Fernandes sent an intelligent pass to Manvir Singh down the left flank but the forward gave the ball away cheaply in the final third.

Bangladesh goalkeeper Anisur Rahman was called into action three minutes later when he made a save following Suresh Singh’s close range effort after a swift attacking move which was started by Chinglensana Singh down the centre.

Bangladesh continued to flirt with danger as India tried their best to break the deadlock with Fernandes proving to be a thorn in Jamie Day’s side with his intelligent runs in the final third.

India tightened their grip on the match and almost scored in the 35th minute but Chinglensana Singh’s powerful header off Fernandes’s corner was cleared off the line by Riyadul Hasan Rafi as the teams remained level going into the break.

Stimac’s chargers continued to attack in numbers at the resumption of the second half and should have done better in the 55th minute when Sandesh Jhingan could not find the target after his header off a Fernandes’ corner was deflected into the path of Rahman.

Fernandes, who impressed in their 1-0 defeat of Qatar, was in the thick of the action again in the 62nd minute when he delivered a perfect cross from a set-piece into the path of Chhetri, but the India captain fired his header wide.

However, India’s persistence finally paid off in the 79th minute when Muhammed Ashique Kuruniyan sent a beautiful cross from the left flank for Chhetri to head into the back of the net from the far post.

Chhetri then doubled India’s lead in added time with a brilliant first touch as the ball raced past Rahman into the top left corner following excellent build-up play.

–IANS

qma/akm

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