Imagine you're on one of those inflatable rubber dinghies and there's a tsunami coming straight at you. That pretty much sums up what the India team marshalled by Bhaichung Bhutia probably felt like within the first five minutes of their encounter against German giants Bayern Munich at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday. It was 3-0 by the 36th minute and 4-0 by the 43rd before India rallied well to keep the second half goalless.
It was schooling on all fronts — passing, counter-attacking and the ability to hold possession. India were pegged in their back third for much of the first half as the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Arjen Robben overwhelmed the Indian midfield quartet.Skipper Philipp Lahm, the left-back with a right foot, seamlessly augmented the attack while right-back Rafinha, defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and at times even centre-back Holger Badstuber enhanced the potency of the efficient German machine in front. Keeper Manuel Neuer looked satisfied with strolling around the middle of the pitch.
In the 14th-minute, Bayern broke the deadlock and kicked off a busy evening for goalkeeper Karanjit Singh. Robben's throw down the right was centred by Thomas Mueller and Mario Gomez slotted in after Govin Singh and Karanjit bungled. India failed to get out of their own half with the exception of a 27th-minute move that culminated in a 25-yard shot by Bhutia that he could have played to the right for Reisangmei Vashum. Within two minutes, Bayern made the boys in blue pay when Robben's cross was met by Mueller's header after the Indian central defensive partnership broke down again.
Eight minutes later, it was 3-0 when Kroos centred for Mueller, left unmarked again, to pick up his second when he finished past Karanjit with a calm left-footer. The half drew to a close with a superb 25-yard strike by Schweinsteiger with a lay-off from Gomez in the 42nd-minute.
India made four changes for the second half, notably bringing on Jeje Lalpekhlua in place of Sushil Singh up front while Lalrindika Ralte replaced Vashum. Franck Ribery was sent on by Bayern to raucous applause from the gathering.
The home side put on a better display, stringing the passes in midfield and displaying the intent to not roll over to the superior competition. Lalpekhlua forged ahead numerous times but was often left with little to do as Jerome Boateng and Badstuber crowded him out. Ralte impressed on the right, taking on Lahm down the flank while left-back Syed Rahim Nabi put on an admirable display containing Takashi Usami as stoically as he duelled against Robben in the first half.
A goal, however, remained a distant reality but as Bhutia trudged off in the 85th-minute to be replaced by the youthful CS Sabeeth, the stadium revelled in the joy of having witnessed the Sikkimese Sniper's last waltz, giving him a rousing farewell on their feet.
The scoreline may have read 4-0 but India's second-half display was among the many positives of a pleasant evening.