15 November 2013


By Nilanjan Datta,
AIFF Media Team

India (Sunil Chhetri – 43rd)


Philippines 1 (Philip James Younghusband – 44th)

SILIGURI: “I was speaking with my dad yesterday evening,” India National Team Captain Sunil Chhetri said prior to boarding the Team Bus.

“Did you watch Sachin Tendulkar bat at the Wakhhede in his 200 Test match,” he queried. “Look at him and the manner how he carries the expectations of the Nation every time he walked out. Despite having scored and scored, fans expect more from him. They stay ever hungry,” he told me.

On the lush-green Kanchenjunga Stadium with the towers glowing bright and the perfect pre-winter chill forcing all to pull their jackets, Sunil Chhetri touched Bhaichung Bhutia as India’s highest-ever goalscorer on 42 Goals. 15000 fans stayed witness and they will stay every hungry too.

Riding on Sunil Chhetri’s 42nd International Goal India shared honours with Philippines in an FIFA International Friendly in Siliguri. The match ended 1-1.

Sunil Chhetri gave India the deserving lead in the 43rd minute. Following one of Mehtab Hossain’s corner, he headed it in to bulge the net. The crowd went berserk.

But Philippines pulled it back off the next attack, in the 44th minute, Philip James Younghusband clotting it past Karanjit Singh. The crowd went silent as both Teams went into the interval 1-1.

Apart from the goal, Sunil, served the perfect foil for Robin Singh playing upfront. He held onto the ball when needed, fell back and initiated with equal and great composure.

It was India who had the better of exchanges in the first half after starting on a positive note. Immediately after kick-off, they seized the momentum early and pushed Philippines to their own area. There were quick one-twos and Robin Singh seemed to be omnipresent in the rival area. His physique helped him to shield it as India built around him. Play was stretched to the wings flurry of attacks stayed even as Francis Fernandes and Clifford Miranda interchanged flanks.

Philippines slowly started to regroup and Bundesliga Club midfielder Markus Schrock who plays for Eintracht Frankfurt stayed the pivot. His class was unmistakable as he stayed the playmaker, feinting and essaying passes. In the 13th minute, his direct freekick hit the wall and bounced back.

But India were not to be subdued.  In the 21st minute, Francis dummied past Christaens Jeffrey as he anticipated a Denzil Franco pass. But his cross narrowly missed an onrushing Robin Singh.

Five minutes later, Sunil ran down the left flank, cut in, only for his powerful shot to be blocked by rival Goalkeeper Richard Muller. Francis Fernandes tried to blast in the rebound but it sailed over.

India earned their first corner in the 28th minute but Richard leaped high above all to collect Clifford’s curler.

Off the counter-attack, Philippines got their best chance from nowhere. One of the routine clearances hit Arnab Mondal on his back and suddenly Phillip James Younghusband found himself all in the clear. But the Indian defence recovered.

Off the next counter, India should have taken the lead. The tireless Clifford ran down the left and though a diving Sunil did meet his cross, it missed by a whisker.

Post resumption, Philippines were off the blocks faster and had even a goal disallowed in the 67th minute for off-side. The understanding between the two Central defenders Aiborlang, the 475th Footballer to play for India and Arnab Mondal, was laudable. Both were playing for the first-time ever in an International Match.

India countered fast and Sunil and Robin did interchange to keep the rivals guessing. But it was more confined to the midfield with none Teams able to break free.

In the 71st minute, Clifford’s cross from the left was all addressed to an unmarked Robin but rival Captain Robert Gier came in from nowhere to intercept.

India made their first change in the 75th minute when Jeje Lalpekhlua replaced Robin Singh. In the 80th minute, Clifford made his way into the box breezing past a copule of rival defenders but Richard managed to keep his shot at bay.

Jeje missed the easiest chance of the day when, all in the clear, he headed over in injury time. It ended 1-1.

Meanwhile, prior to the kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed to pay respect to all who died in Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines.

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