International football returns to Mumbai! Indians hit Puerto Ricans for a four
Hosts rally from a goal down to beat higher-ranked South American visitors 4-1 as international football returns to Mumbai after over half a century
India’s Sunil Chettri (No 11) lifts teammate Jeje Lalpekhlua after the latter scored a goal against Puerto Rico in an international friendly at the Andheri Sports Complex on Saturday. Pic/PTI
International football returned to Mumbai after 61 years, when the Indian National team — ranked 152 —took on Puerto Rico, ranked 114, at the new Mumbai Football Arena of the Andheri Sports Complex yesterday.
Back in February 1955, the Indian side lost to the Soviet Union 0-3 in the city. On Saturday, the Men in Blue demolished their higher-ranked South American opponents 4-1.
India striker Sunil Chettri is tackled by Puerto Rico’s Jacob Conde during an international friendly on Saturday. Pic/Suresh Karkera
India concede early
The match kicked off with India on the back foot, getting caught by surprise with Puerto Rico’s flair and short passing. As pressure mounted on the home team, a sloppy tackle inside the box by midfielder Jackichand Singh led to the referee pointing to the spot. The penalty was calmly tucked away in the bottom right by Emmanuel Sanchez, who comfortably beat India goalkeeper and captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Undeterred by conceding the opening goal, the hosts went all out on the attack.
Soon, forwards Sunil Chettri and Jeje Lalpekhlua were seen combining well and penetrating the Puerto Rican defence regularly.
The equaliser was scored by defender Narayan Das, who found himself at the end of a cross that came in from a free kick. Within the next 10 minutes, Sunil Chettri was brought down on the edge of the box (a call that was debatable as it looked to be a clean challenge. He tucked away the free kick through a gap in the wall, sending the crowd of 6,800 into a frenzy as India took the lead for the first time in the game.
Jeje, Jackichand score
Here on, it was all India. The Blue brigade scored a third through a brilliant one-two that was converted by Jeje.
In the second half, the Indians scored a fourth, through Jackichand Singh within the first 15 minutes. The closing minutes saw Puerto Rico pressing hard and hitting the post twice, but failing to find the net.
Puerto Rico’s coach David Gullemat played down the ranking aspect: “Sometimes, FIFA rankings can be a bit misleading. We expected a fast and technical team, but it wasn’t like that. Also, we didn’t have some of our first team players.” India coach Stephen Constantine warned his team against conceding early. “We must start off more quickly because on another day, you won’t bounce back from a goal down. The atmosphere in Mumbai was fantastic,” he said.
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