India won their 8th match in a row, 9th if one counts the unofficial friendly against Bhutan, as they beat Mauritius 2-1 in the Tri Nations Series at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai. Robin Singh scored only for the fifth time in his international career in a match that the visitors dominated possession-wise. Ahead of the AFC Cup qualifiers against Macau on 5 September, Constantine will be pleased with the performance of his team in the absence of captain Sunil Chhetri.
Jeje Lalpekhlua and Robin Singh led the attack for India in a 4-4-2 formation with centre-back Sandesh Jinghan awarded the captain’s armband for the first time. Mauritius were patient in the build-up play, using short passes to get to the last third in contrast to India’s tactics of playing long balls to Robin and Jeje. And it was the visitors who deservedly took the lead in the 15th minute. Joseph Kevin, who had a good outing, latched on to a clinical through ball and put in a hopeful cross for forward Jean Justin. India failed to clear quickly and Jean Jocelyn was quick to pounce on the loose ball as his deflected shot wrong footed Subrata Paul in goal.
Backed by a sparse but vocal crowd, India pressed on for an equaliser and it wasn’t until the 37th minute that they came back into the match. After relying on long balls throughout the first half, India broke through the Mauritian defence as Rowlin Borges played in beautiful through ball for Robin who waited for the keeper to commit before slotting in the equaliser for India.
Constantine changed his tactics and personnel before the second half as Nikhil Poojary and Amrinder Singh were handed their international debuts replacing Jackichand Singh and Subrata Paul respectively while Balwant Singh came in for Robin. The introduction of Nikhil and Balwant saw India change to a more fluid 4-3-3 which gave The Blue Tigers more control in the match. The substitutes combined well with Jeje and began closing down defenders quickly allowing India to dominate the proceedings.
The change in tactics worked as India finally took the lead when Jeje’s clever flick from Eugenson Lyngdoh’s lofted pass was latched on to by Balwant and the Punjab-born striker kept his cool in a one-on-one situation with the keeper. The Mauritius players protested for an offside flag but to no avail. It was the Mumbai City FC striker’s first goal for his country and his performance will give Constantine a selection headache, but of the good kind.
East Bengal’s Mohammad Rafique replaced Eugenson and he almost had an instant impact as he intercepted a pass in the Marutian half before playing in a delightful pass to Halicharan Narzary who could only find the side netting.
Jeje was taken off in the 87th minute to a standing ovation from the crowd as U-23 striker Manvir Singh made his debut for the senior side. The youngster nearly got on the score sheet as he tried to loop the ball over the Mauritian keeper who was off the line but he over hit it as the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Mauritius went in hard to look for the equaliser but the Indian defence stood resolute as the visitors failed to claim a draw which was something that they might have deserved. India take on St Kitts and Nevis on 24 August where Constantine may look to give chances to more players but the coach conceded that primary focus is always going to be the AFC Cup qualifier against Macau in September.
Updated Date: Aug 21, 2017 15:59 PM