Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The Indian football team on Wednesday broke an 11-year-old jinx of not winning an International friendly match away from home as they beat lower ranked Cambodia 3-2 in an international friendly in Phnom Penh on Wednesday.
Playing in their first international friendly this year, India -- currently at 132nd in the Fifa rankings -- were given a tough fight by the Cambodians, who are 41 places below them.
The last time India emerged victorious in an away international friendly was way back in 2006, when the team captained by Shanmugam Venkatesh eked out a solitary goal win over Pakistan.
Stephen Constantine's boys played a lacklustre first half but they regrouped in the second session to pump in two quick goals in the space of three minutes.
The win will boost the Indian side ahead of their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers first leg match against Myanmar on 28 March in Yangon.
Sunil Chhetri (35th minute), Jeje Lalpekhlua (49th) and Sandesh Jhingan (52nd) found the target for India while Cambodia scored through Khoun Laboravy (36th) and Chan Vathanaka (62nd).
A spell of three minutes immediately after the interval settled the issue for Constantine's boys in the match, which witnessed international debuts for Anas Edathodika and Milan Singh.
The two substitutions at the interval -- Sandesh Jhingan and Jeje Lalpekhlua -- coming in for Arnab Mondal and Daniel Lalhlimpuia respectively, did the trick for India. The duo made an instant impact, scoring the next two goals, and despite Cambodia desperately throwing men in attack during the later stages, India had sealed it by then.
Constantine began with Chhetri and Robin Singh in the attack and did not start with Jhingan at deep defence. The Indian defence was porous in the first session with the Cambodians creating chances from counter attacks.
But Jhingan's introduction in place of Mondal changed the scenario and also gave thrust to the attack.
The Cambodians got two good attempts in the eighth and 17th minutes with the Indian defence caught napping but on both occasions Vathanaka failed to convert the chances. He smashed over the bar in the first chance and then shot straight to the Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from the second.
The Indians lived dangerously for some time but they slowly settled down and then took the lead against the run of play through Chhetri in the 35th minute.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh sent a beautiful corner kick and it was missed by Cambodian goalie Um Sereyroth and Chhetri had all the time in the world for an easy nod into the empty net.
But the Indian lead lasted just a minute with Cambodia equalising in the 36th minute. Prak Mony Udom got the better of Mondal and he sent in a low cross for Laboravy to beat Gurpreet with a powerful shot.
Jeje and Jhingan came in the second half and that changed the complexion of the match with India dominating the home side.
Two minutes after resumption, Chhetri had a snapshot from the edge of the box and the Cambodian goalie used his body to block it before a timely clearance by a defender.
The Indians did not have to wait for long for the lead as Jeje made his presence felt four minutes after coming in at the breather. It was a lovely bit of play from Jackichand Singh who ran past two players before sending a beautiful cross. Jeje made no mistake as he hit it past the advancing Cambodian goalie, with the ball hitting the post and going in
Three minutes later, Jhingan made the scoreline 3-1 with the goal also coming off a corner. An unmarked Jhingan rose highest to connect another Eugeneson corner to hand India a two-goal cushion.
The momentum had completely shifted towards India in the second session and the counter attacks the Cambodians had in the first session were not coming.
But the home side were still able to pull one back with Vathanaka finding the Indian net in the 62nd minute. He picked up the ball outside the box and let loose a shot which beat Gurpreet all ends up.
India's last meeting with Cambodia, at the 2007 Nehru Cup in New Delhi, ended in one of their biggest-ever wins in international football -- a 6-0 demolition of the southeast Asian nation.
Constantine expressed happiness at the win but said that his boys need to start quicker in an international match.
"Every time you play for the national team, you want to win. Results matter and it is nice to continue the winning streak," he said after the match.
"Winning away from home has been our strength and the fact that we won our first away international friendly after June 2005 makes it all the sweeter. We had some good moments in the match and the boys need to get used to playing with each other," he stated.
"We need to start quicker. It is a must in international football. We have a habit of taking it a bit lightly and starting the game slowly. We can't afford to do that. If you do that, you bring your own downfall," he maintained.
"At the end of day, it's a win and I am very happy for the boys and all who have been involved in the process. But there is no place to go over the moon. We have a sterner test next week, an acid test in fact," he said referring to the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match against Myanmar in Yangon on March 28.
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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2017 21:31:45 IST