India wasted an early lead and settled for a 1-1 draw against Maldives on Sunday in an international football friendly at the National Stadium in Male.
Captain Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring in the 18th minute but Mukhtar Nasir fired the equaliser in the 44th minute. “The equalizer showed the defence still needed some patch work as it lacked confidence against the 151-ranked team in the world”, wrote the TOI.
India went into the lead when Chhetri headed in Steven Dias’ corner to silence the packed house.
Thereafter, India took over the reins as the midfield fed Jeje Lalpeklua and Chettri upfront without fail. There were also a number of mispasses from the rival medios which further helped India’s cause.
India were unlucky to not surge into a two-nil lead as Jeje’s shot hit the bar after he was set in the clear by Sunil in the 43rd minute.
But India couldn’t hold onto the lead till the interval as Mukhtar Nasir equalised for Maldives in the 44th minute. He intercepted a through pass and curled it over Subrata Pal to leave it 1-1 at the interval.
Changing over, Jeje had another chance in the 60th minute but his placement missed the target by inches. In the 86th minute as well an opportunity went waste when Jeje’s shot went wide from near.
“It was a tough match. We did create our chances and I’m happy with the performance of the boys,” said India coach Armando Colaco.
“The World Cup Qualifier against UAE stays our priority. There’s always a bit of experimentation in friendlies and we tried to make most use of it,” he said.
The performance did raise doubts about the confidence level of Armando Colaco’s team which is trying to be in shape ahead of their crucial first leg World Cup qualifier against UAE, away on July 23.
India next play Qatar in another friendly at the Al Sadd Stadium, July 17. India then move on to challenge UAE in the first-leg of the World Cup Qualifier slated for July 23 in Abu Dhabi. The return leg is slated for July 28 at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi.