The Indian men’s football team played out a 1-1 draw against Nepal in an international friendly on Thursday with substitute Anirudh Thapa finding the equaliser after the hosts grabbed the lead. Thapa scored for the Blue Tigers in the 60th minute after Anjan Bista gave the home team the lead in the 36th minute.
The first half kicked off with India on the front foot, earning a corner with their first attack.
Brandon’s delivery found Chinglensana Singh inside the box but he was denied a shooting chance with a last-ditch challenge. From the second corner, the ball found Chinglensana’s head again but his attempted shot went out for a goal kick.
Liston Colaco was a constant threat down the left flank, troubling the Nepal defence with his pace and dribbling. In the eighth minute, he beat his marker and produced a dangerous cross that did not find an Indian touch in the penalty area.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action on a few occasions, as he collected the long passes and crosses attempted by the Nepal wingers.
Both sides battled it out for the opening goal and in the 36th minute, the hosts took the lead through Bista, who pounced on a loose pass in the Indian defence and put the ball in the back of the net.
India went forward in search of the equaliser, with Liston charging down the left flank on a number of occasions and entering dangerous areas with the ball.
The score at the break, however, remained 1-0 in favour of Nepal, with Gurpreet making a couple of clean saves towards the end from long-range efforts from the hosts.
The Blue Tigers made a host of changes at the break, with Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad coming into their midfield positions, and Seriton Fernandes and Rahim Ali being brought on as well – making their respective senior India debuts.
Thapa’s free-kick in the 50th minute caused havoc inside the Nepal penalty box as the ball fell to skipper Sunil Chhetri but he was denied by an onrushing custodian Kiran Limbu.
The Nepali keeper continued to press the ball outside his area and blocked a cross with his hand, earning him a yellow card.
Just three minutes later, Chhetri almost found the back of the net with a trademark header. Manvir crossed from the right flank and the Indian skipper headed the ball at the far post but his effort was just wide of the target.
At the hour mark, the Blue Tigers got the leveller through substitute Thapa, who showed great awareness to poke the ball home from close range.
Chhetri’s fierce shot from 25 yards could only be palmed into the six-yard box by Kiran and an onrushing Thapa was on hand to react quickly to the rebound and score.
Rahim almost added a quick second goal with a curling effort from outside the penalty area soon after, but his shot went just past the wrong side of the upright.
Lalengmawia replaced Suresh Wangjam in the 63rd minute and Bipin Singh was brought on for Chhetri in the 70th minute as India continued to push for the go-ahead goal.
With 10 minutes to play, Nepal’s Bishal Rai found space to shoot inside the penalty area but his shot was blocked promptly by Rahul Bheke, as Gurpreet collected easily.
The two sides will be in action once again on Sunday in the second International Friendly, which will be played at the same venue.
The matches kick start India’s preparations for next month’s SAFF Championships in Maldives.The five-team SAFF Championships will be held from October 3 to October 13 at the National Stadium in Male.
Besides India, the other participating teams are Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, hosts Maldives and Nepal.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.