The Indian national team scored an impressive win over UAE Second Division team Al Shaab 3-1 in a friendly match at Dubai, UAE.
India started the match without three starting players, goalkeeper Subrata Pal, captain Bhaichung Bhutia and central defender Gouramangi Singh, who were all injured. While Subrata was carrying an injury from India, the other two sustained injuries during the camp in Dubai.
Being a weekend, there was a decent Indian support for the national team at the stadium.
The Indian team dominated proceedings right from the starting whistle. Both strikers Sunil Chetri and Abhishek Yadav missed easy chances as Chetri shot wide and Abhishek could only pass to the Al Shaab goalie Hamadan Mallalah on a one-on-one between the two.
Soon, Climax Lawrence and Anthony Pereira combined well to free Chetri and the striker collected the ball from the top of the penalty box. He rounded off from the charging goalie to slot home India’s first goal.
Within a space of two minutes, India were up 2-0 as Chetri found the net again. A brilliant cross from the right by Steven Dias was headed in by Chetri as the crowd erupted in joy.
India were leading 2-0 and looked comfortable throughout.
Chetri completed his hat-trick just after the break. This time Chetri received a lovely through ball from midfielder NP Pradeep and scored a magnificent goal. The opposition goalie again underestimated Chetri and tried to block his run but the speed and acceleration of Chetri was unmatched on the field.
Around the one-hour mark, the Indian coach Bob Houghton made a defensive substitution by taking off Climax and replacing him with the burly Mehrajuddin Waddoo.
In the 80th minute, the Al Shaab team broke free and scored a goal pulling a goal back during counter-attack.
Coach Bob was quick to make a couple of changes by bringing on the experienced Renedy Singh and first-timer Mohammed Rafi for NP Pradeep and hat-trick hero Sunil Chetri.
Renedy almost gave the crowd something more to cheer soon after coming on. Winger Dias provided Renedy with a great pass into the box but Renedy could not convert the chance.
The Indian team was cheered by the host of Indian fans when the final whistle was blown. They won a match completely dominated by them. They did miss a few open chances. Besides Chetri, the midfielders Climax, Dias and Pradeep also played well.
Playing XI: 24-Subhasish Roy Choudhury, 17-Surkumar Singh, 3-NS Manju, 5-Anwar Ali, 22-Syed Rahim Nabi, 28-Anthony Pereira (25-Clifford Miranda), 30-Climax Lawrence (27-Mehrajuddin Wadao), 7-N.P.Pradeep (8-Renedy Singh), 23-Steven Dias, 11-Sunil Chetri (18-Mohamed Rafi ), 21-Abhishek Yadav.
Substitutes: 16-Arindam Bhattacharya, 12-Deepak Kumar Mondal, 41-Rakesh Masih, 2-Govin Singh, 46-James Lukram Singh.
Not Playing: Subrata Pal, Bhaichung Bhutia, Gouramangi Singh, Sameer Naik, N. Mohanraj (Source for team list: AIFF)
Jason Morais writes for footballkerala.com