Bangladesh held India to a 1-1 draw in their third match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday at the Salt Lake Stadium as the hosts failed to bag full points at home against a relatively weaker opponent.
A day before the match, Bangladesh head coach Jamie Day had said that he was confident about his team's chances, especially after a decent display against Qatar on a poor pitch. In fact, the team's skipper, Jamal Bhuyan, had even proclaimed that they will be out to break Indian hearts in Kolkata.
And they almost did. In front of a jam-packed, vociferous crowd, the Indian football team were going down 0-1 until the very end. It was in the 89th minute, that Adil Khan rose the highest and headed in Brandon Fernandes’ corner to level the scores and save India the blushes.
Igor Stimac made three changes to the lineup that held Qatar to a goalless draw last month in Doha. Nikhil Poojary, suspended Rowllin Broges and injured Sandesh Jhingan were replaced by Ashique Kuruniyan, Sunil Chhetri and Anas Edathodika while Bangladesh fielded the same side that took on Qatar in their last match.
Buoyed by the return of captain Chhetri, the Indian team was keen on registering their first win of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. However, despite their on-paper superiority, the Blue Tigers never really looked like they would go on to take home three points.
Anas, who was included in the starting XI for the first time since coming back from retirement, looked shaky throughout while Qatar-match hero Gurpreet also disappointed. Day, on his part, had tweaked the usual 4-4-2 formation and fielded his team in a defensive 4-1-4-1, an understandable tactical move. The defensive approach meant that India were unable to play their usual passing football and were forced to attack through long balls.
India got several opportunities to break the deadlock but Bangladesh's defence, especially central defender Yeasin Khan, stood firm. Then, in the 42nd minute, Saad Uddin stunned the entire stadium with a towering header against the run of play following a Jamal Bhuyan freekick. The freekick which was directed towards the far post from the left flank reached Saad as Bheke lost sight of the onrushing Bangladeshi forward and Gurpreet failed to collect the ball from the air.
Twice in the second half, Bangladesh came close to extending their lead but both times they were let down by poor finishing. With the final 30 minutes of the match left, trailing 0-1, Stimac pulled out all stops to prevent a humiliating defeat. In that final period, India were playing with a two-man defence, desperate to find an equaliser. And eventually, their persistence paid off.