Swamped. That’s what Bhutan were when they took on India in their second Saff Cup Group A encounter at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Monday.
The hosts kept the lowest-ranked side of the tournament restricted to their own half throughout regulation time with the visitors appearing clueless as to how to prevent the eventual 5-0 thrashing.
India’s midfield that combination appeared well-oiled with Clifford Miranda, in particular, impressing on the left. The Dempo medio played a role in each of the first four goals and troubled Bhutan right-back Sangay Khandu along with left-back Syed Rahim Nabi. Anthony Pereira, who got a nod ahead of Steven Dias, held fort in the right-flank while skipper Climax Lawrence and Rocus Lamare proved to be an effective central supply-line to strikers Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua.
Inexperience costs Bhutan dear
Bhutan’s largely inexperienced side with many U-19s failed to mount a single attack with sole striker Sonam Tenzin being left isolated in front. Central midfielders Tshering Dorji and Thinley Dorji spent much of the game fending off Indian surges.
Nabi’s 29th-minute opener came from a Miranda corner-kick. He beat his marker at the far post to head India into the lead. The fullback had earlier beaten Bhutan custodian Mon Bhattrai thrice but all three strikes were ruled offside.
Miranda doubled India’s lead a minute before the interval when Chhetri’s blocked strike from outside the box saw Bhutanese centre-backs Man Bahadur Gurung and Jigme Dorjee failing to clear the ball. The ball fell to Lalpekhlua who failed to connect and Miranda ran into the box to slot past Bhattrai.
Clearly, the goal-difference factor was on India coach Savio Medeira’s mind and India carried the attacking momentum into the second-half. Miranda made it 3-0 in the 58th-minute with a stellar right-footed strike from the edge of the penalty box. Chhetri entered the act off a Miranda corner in the 69th minute that he tapped past Bhattrai. He went onto embarrass Bhutan further as he went on a solo run from the middle of the pitch in the 85th minute to make it 5-0.