5 Talking Points India vs Tajikistan: India met Tajikistan in the Hero Intercontinental Cup. India went off to perfect start with Sunil Chhetri netting in the 4th minute and then, doubling India’s lead in the 41st minute. Tajikistan struck back with vengeance as they scored 4 goals in the space of 15 minutes to hand India their first defeat of Hero Intercontinental Cup history.
Tajikistan showed great character and exploited India’s weakness to hand them a hugely disappointing result. A look at the talking points from the game:
(1) Did India Get their Line-up Right?
There were a lot of question marks arising over the starting line-up, especially over the centre-back position. Narender Gahlot got his first start and was accompanied by Adil Khan. Though Adil Khan had been going through a purple patch, his overall game is susceptible. Also, he didn’t play as a centre-back regularly enough. Gahlot too, was coming on the back of a good season with the Indian Arrows, but his inexperience at the highest level was a worrying sign. As it panned out, both made individual errors that cost India the game. But the gaffer later cleared the stance and mentioned none of Anas Edathodika or Sandesh Jhingan were fit.
Much like how FC Goa does, Stimac also started Mandar at left-back. However, FC Goa’s playing style and that of India is very different and hence, Mandar was caught off-guard a couple of times.
Though Stimac has been vocal about him wanting to try out different players ahead of the Olympic qualifiers, this brings to light the fact that did India get it right?
(2) Sunil Chhetri Still Remains India’s go-to Man, Sahal is the Future
There has been a lot happening in Indian football and there are a lot of new faces that have come to the fore, however, Sunil Chhetri seems to be India’s perennial star man and someone, the team can look upto.Chhetri went about his business with astute professionalism, scoring a penalty in the 4th minute and then doubling India’s lead with a fine shot inside the box, in the 41st minute.
He put India in a very comfortable position and in the driver’s seat.
Sahal Abdul Samad was the silver lining in an otherwise mediocre performance by the Indian side. The youngster has the legs to help the team in defence, while also being sublime in the forward runs. His passing was brilliant and he did not put a foot wrong.
(3) Tajikistan’s Equaliser was the Turning Point of the Game
Tajikistan was completely caught by surprise with the flair in the Indian side. Though Tajikistan had a dangerous midfield, India dealt well, not giving them enough space.
However, a rejuvenated Tajikistan side struck with vengeance in the second half. First it was Komron Tursunov who started things off for the Tajiks with a goal in the 56th minute, 2 minutes before Sheriddin Boboev’s 58th minute equaliser that probably turned things around.
India were struck hard and they could not really get back from there. India lost their composure and the plot, and let Tajikistan back in the game.
(4) Tajikistan Smart with their Substitution, India Not so!
Tajikistan gaffer Usmon Toshev was proactive with his substitutions and made them just when his side needed them. He realised that India lost their concentration, plot and stamina, and that his side could go on to win the game. That’s when he decided to inject more pace as he brought on Nozim Babadzhanov, who gave a lot of problems to the Indian midfield and defence and was a key figure in India winning the game.
(5) India’s Age Old Problems Come to the Fore Again
India have always found it tough to see out games and have been recipients of late goals. Yet again, India just seemed to switch off and lose their concentration. Tired legs also showed and India’s stamina was in question.
The gaffer Stimac has a lot of problems to solve and has a tough time ahead.