Balwant Singh brace helps India beat Macau 2-0 in AFC Asian Cup qualifier
Balwant Singh’s second half brace saw India beat Macau 2-0 in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier and remain top of Group A with 9 points from three gamesUpdated: Sep 05, 2017 20:47 IST
Balwant Singh struck twice in the second half as India defeated Macau 2-0 in their 2019 AFC Asian Cup Group A qualification match at the Macau Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. (HIGHLIGHTS)
Having beaten Myanmar 1-0 away and Kyrgyz Republic 1-0 at home, the win sees India extend their lead in Group A, with 9 points from three games.
India started the game well, keeping the ball for most of the early exchanges. However, a well-organised Macau managed to keep the Indian attack on a leash in the opening minutes.
Skipper Sunil Chhetri had a long range effort blocked in the 13th minute, but the first real chance of the match came in the 34th minute when forward Jeje Lalpekhlua missed from close range for India.
The visitors kept knocking at the door, and two minutes later, Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s audacious attempt from outside the box bounced off the crossbar.
Macau, who managed to stitch together a few promising moves in the first half, never threatened the Indian goal, with poor ball retention in the final third not helping their cause.
With the opening 45 minutes having ended goalless, India head coach Stephen Constantine replaced midfielder Eugeneson with striker Balwant.
Playing with three forwards up front, India put Macau under serious pressure in the second half. Balwant fired a header wide five minutes after coming on, before Chhetri saw his headed attempt meet the crossbar a minute later.
The Macau defence was visibly rattled by India’s aerial prowess, and in the 57th minute, Balwant successfully converted left-back Narayan Das’ cross with a powerful header to give India the lead.
India turned the screw on Macau after taking the lead, and with a high defensive line to back up the attack, the visitors created a number of opportunities over the next few minutes.
The hosts’ backline was relieved to see two more headed attempts from Balwant go out safely, while right-back Pritam Kotal’s long ranger was matched with a superb save in the 64th minute.
In the 82nd minute, India landed the killer blow on Macau when a defensive lapse from the hosts saw Balwant hand his side a two-goal cushion.
Having latched on to a poor delivery from a Macau corner, goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh had floated a long ball into the hosts’ half.
With India chasing the ball, the hosts’ custodian came off his line, hoping to get the ball back from his defender, whose attempt to clear the ball proved unsuccessful. The persistent Balwant found himself at the right place to slot the ball home.
India held on to secure a 2-0 win, and with home games against Macau and Myanmar coming up, will hope to clinch qualification as early as possible.
Meanwhile, the other game in Group A, between Kyrgyz Republic and Myanmar, wasn’t played due to security concerns in Bishkek. Kyrgyz authorities recommended AFC that the match not be played in an Islamic country owing to the ongoing humanitarian crisis surrounding the Rohingya community in Myanmar.
AFC is expected to make a decision soon on the fate of the match.