Two goals in the second half from recently recalled striker Balwant Singh ensured India maintained their unbeaten run in Group A for AFC Asian Cup qualification in 2019.
India were expected to beat Macau, who are ranked 183rd in the world, but were made to work hard for their goals by a resolute Macau defense in the first half. The hosts were also helped by some un-imaginative play by the Indians in the first half, with all their play predominantly in front of the defense. India lacked width in their attacking play, with full backs Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das not overlapping wingers Holicharan Narzary and Udanta Singh.
Indian Coach Stephen Constantine recognized that more attacking verve was required from his side to get the ball over the line in the second half, and he brought on Balwant Singh in place of Eugeneson Lyngdoh to form a three pronged attack of Narzary-Balwant-Jeje, with Sunil Chhetri given the task of orchestrating proceedings from midfield.
The team immediately showed more purpose, w
ith the full-backs clearly given the job of whipping the ball into the box whenever they got the opportunity. After Sunil Chhetri came close by hitting the bar from a header, Balwant Singh converted the chance he got from a beautiful cross by Pritam Kotal to put India ahead in the game. The striker showed the predatory instinct he was brought back into the team for, and his goal immediately caused Macau to commit more men forward in search of a goal.
However, the Indian defensive duo of Anas Edathodika and Sandesh Jhingan ensured that the Macau attackers could get nowhere close to the goal guarded by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. A long ball forward by Sandhu in the later parts of the second half found Balwant Singh surrounded by three Macau defenders, with the keeper coming out to claim the ball. Confusion ensued and with the keeper out of the penalty box as the ball fell to Singh, the striker calmly stroked the ball into an empty net from outside the box to seal the win for India.
While there is lots to work and improve upon after tonight,glad that we are coming back with 3 points. We will keep learning and improving.
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) September 5, 2017