India vs Tajikistan - Intercontinental Cup: Indian defence falters, Tajikistan hands Blue Tigers 4-2 thrashing - As it happened

Tune in for live commentary and updates from the 2019 Intercontinental Cup clash between India and Tajikistan at Ahmedabad's EKA Arena.

Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri celebrates after scoring against Tajikistan in their Intercontinental Cup clash on Sunday.   -  Twitter @IndianFootball

Hello and welcome to Sportstar's live blog of the opening clash of the Intercontinental Cup 2019 clash between India and Tajikistan being played at Ahmedabad's EKA Arena. I'm Shyam Vasudevan and I'll be keeping you company through the game.

 

So India's title defence gets off to a losing start as it slips to a 4-2 defeat to Tajakistan. The Blue Tigers got off to a dream start courtesy of Sunil Chhetri's fourth minute goal and the Indian captain made it 2-0 shortly before halftime. However, a resurgent Tajikistan side hammered four goals, making the most of India's shaky defence, to complete a tremendous comeback and claim a first win in over seven months. The Blue Tigers will now head back to the drawing board and Stimac will perhaps have to re-work his line-up.

90+3' Referee blows his whistle to bring this fixture to an end. Tajikistan put up a fine show to recover from a two-goal deficit to pummel four goals and hand India a 4-2 thrashing in the opening game of the 2019 Intercontinental Cup.

90+1' Vinit goes into the ref's book for a terrible tackle and becomes the the third Indian to receive a booking.

90' We will have three minutes of added time. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that this is the first time India has lost a game in which Sunil Chhetri has scored more than one goal.

89' So Tajikistan has not won a game in its last six matches! The side's coach, Usmon Toshev, took charge of the side in December and will claim his first win with the team this evening. What a platform to achieve it!

87' Jerry saves the Indians from further humiliation ans he throws his body on the line to block a certain goal. And Chhetri is now replaced by Jobby Justin.

81' Stimac makes another change, Thapa is taken off and Farukh Choudhary comes on.

80' Adil Khan picks up a yellow and is the second Indian to go into the ref's book. He's been pretty patchy today; he's showed touches of brilliance but has also been caught off-position and napping on a number of instances.

78' Change for India - Rowlinn Borges replaces Sahal Abdul Samad.

76' It's interesting to think about what's going on in Stimac's head now. He hasn't brought on any of his regular defenders yet and has stuck to his starting defenders, except for replacing Mandar with Jerry. Would the addition of a more solid defender like Jhingan add some much-needed strength to the backline?

74' FOUR- TWO TO TAJIKISTAN! Ehsoni plays a mindblowing lob into the box and Shahrom, who came on less than four minutes ago, nestles the goal to give his side a two-goal lead! This looks like a completely new side altogether!

71' THIRD GOAL FOR TAJIKISTAN! Yes, you read that right.  Rahimov races past Adil, gathers the ball and slots it between Gurpreet's legs to make it 3-2! What a comeback this is!

69' Boboev is now taken off and Shahrom takes his place on the pitch.

65' We're down to the last 25 minutes of this tie. What is your prediction? Have your say here -

 

63' Another chance for Boboev! He gets past Adil and has a strike at goal. but only manages to find the side-netting. It's another corner for the Tajiks, their eighth if I'm not wrong, but no goal from this one.

59' Stimac makes his second change - Mandar Rao Dessai is replaced by Jerry Lalrinzuala.

58' SECOND GOAL FOR TAJIKISTAN IN AS MANY MINUTES! It's 2-2 now! Dessai can't clear the ball and the ball is played to Tursunov, the scorer of the first goal, on the right. The scorer turned provider as he whipped in a fine cross that was buried into the back of the net by  Sheriddin Boboev. Oh and that's his first goal for the national team!

57' Close from Chhetri! He nearly bags his hat-trick, but his header sails just above the crossbar.

56' GOAL FOR TAJIKISTAN! Tursunov is released down the centre and he has a go, but Gurpreet manages to stop his shot, but fails to clear it. The Tajik attacker latches on to the rebound and beats the Indian 'keeper on his second attempt to reduce the deficit. India leads 2-1.

54' The Tajiks have thrown men ahead and spent a considerable time keeping the Indian defence on its toes, but have still struggled to trouble 'keeper Gupreet. They've won their sixth corner, but haven't quite looked threatening yet.

52' A steady rain has begun here in Ahmedabad, meaning the ball will zip off the turf now. Long balls are going to be particularly hard to receive now.

49' Close! Thapa is released down the centre by Sahal and the Chennaiyin FC midfielder is through on goal, but the ball is stolen away from him just has he lines up a shot.

47' Here's a fun stat from the commentator- Sunil Chhetri has scored a whopping 81 per cent of the Indian football team's last 84 goals! Who else would you like to see on the scoresheet tonight? 

46' First change of the game - Vinit Rai replaces Amarjit Singh Kiyam.

It's been a refreshing performance from the Indians so far. The attacking line has looked sharp, but the defence has appeared a little shaky at times. Will Stimac bring in a couple of more experienced names for the next 45?

45+1' And that brings us to the end of the first half. It's been a game of a few chances, but the home side has cruised to a two-goal lead. Skipper Chhetri struck from the spot as early as the fourth minute and busted the net once again in the 40th minute to double his side's lead. The Tajiks did have a few chances of their own, largely due to defensive errors from the Indian backline, but simply failed to capitalise on them. At the end of the first 45, Igor Stimac's men lead 2-0.

43' With his first goal, Sunil Chhetri overtook former Germany striker Gerd Muller on the list of highest international goalscorers. And now, after his second, he's a goal away from equalling Miroslav Klose's tally!

 

40' CHHETRI SCORES AGAIN!!!!! Udanta is at it again as he weaves his way down the right flank, skips past his man and delivers a powerful low cross into the box. It falls for Mandar, who squares it for his skipper. Chhetri is caught for space but cleverly places it to the right of the 'keeper to double the home side's lead.

37' Adil complete sweeps the opposition defender off his feet, not in a nice way, and is super lucky to get away with that! That's a clear penalty in my opinion. He gets more of the player than of the ball, and the Taijks are rightfully incensed, but the ref thinks otherwise.

35' Woah, that was close! Adil Khan lunges with one foot in the air and catches Barotov in the box, but the ref doesn't see a penalty this time around. Gurpreet goes on to spill the ball, but somehow manages to avoid damage.

30' Sunil Chhetri's fourth minute penalty is all that separates the two sides after the opening half hour. In case you somehow, somehow (shame on you!) missed the goal, here's how he scored.

 

27' Thapa makes a rather silly tackle and Tajikistan now has a free-kick from a little over 30 yards. Ehsuni looks like he's going to have a go. Ah, he strikes it straight to Gurpreet and it's an easy save in the end.

25' This is some extremely good attacking play from the Indians. Udanta makes his way into the attacking third and plays it to Sahal, who finds Bheke down the right. The Bengaluru FC star, who scored the winning goal in the ISL final, angles a cross into the box but Chhetri can't get enough power on the header.

23' Uh oh, first booking of the game. Bheke picks up a yellow for a seemingly rash tackle. The tackle didn't look too rash, but the ref isn't taking any chances.

22' Quite a punt from Gurpreet. He lets one rip and plays it straight to the opposition 'keeper. Was he trying to do what the Jordanian goalkeeper did to him late last year?

18' Ooooooh, how close was that? Narender tries to head the ball away but completely misses the line and leaves Barotov bearing down on goal. The Tajikistan midfielder fires a fine instep strike, but fails to find the net. Gurpreet could have done little had Barotov found the target.

16' Oh and of course, Thapa is one of the few players who knows this stadium really well! He starred in all three of Chennaiyin FC's AFC Cup games here.

15' Thapa is one of the three players that Stimac has retained from the side that played in the third-place King's Cup play-off last month. Thapa scored the goal last time around and will most certainly be one of India's key players tonight. He attracts a wild round of cheers every time he gets the ball, but hasn't really had a chance to stamp his authority on the game just yet.

13' The commentator just said that the Tajikistan side is also known as the Persian Lions. So it's a game of the Blue Tigers vs the Persian Lions today, eh? Sorry, it was right there and I just had to!

11' Udanta sets the turf on fire! He darts down the right flank and races past his man, but just can't find Chhetri in the box. Corner for India now.

10' Adil Khan mistimes his tackle and loses the ball, but does extremely well to track back and cut the cross. Second corner for Tajikistan!

7' Tajikistan wins the first corner of the game, but it does not yield to anything. A neat little cross is floated into the box, but the striker fails to connect. It's been an intense opening few minutes.

4' GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL! CHHETRI BAGS HIS 69TH GOAL AND INDIA HAS THE EARLY ADVANTAGE! Captain, Leader, Legend indeed. The skipper steps up to take the spot kick and finds the back of the net with a clever panenka to put Stimac's men ahead with a little over 4 minutes on the clock. What a terrific start for the Blue Tigers.

3' PENALTY TO INDIA! Sahal does extremely well to drop deep and play it to Chhangte, who is taken down in the box. The ref is quick to point to the spot and the Indians have a fantastic opportunity to secure an early lead!

1' KICK OFF!

8pm: We're seconds away from kick-off. The stadium looks fairly crowded and a fun game ensues! Can the Blue Tigers claim their first win at home under Igor Stimac today? All answers in 90-odd minutes from now.

7:55pm: Also, did you know the today's venue, the EKA Arena, is India's most advanced stadium? Here's more on that - Intercontinental Cup: Ahmedabad's EKA Arena's first tryst with international football

7:50pm: Oops, we missed this one - Anas is not even on the bench today and neither is Pronay Halder!

7:45pm: Right, so who is Narender Gahlot? The 18-year-old defender from Delhi is a former India U-17 player and played for the Indian Arrows in the I-League last season. He made a total of 10 appearances, and will ply his trade with Jamshedpur FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) this season.

 

7:40pm: We also have two debutants in the house! Mandar and Gahlot will earn their first national cap today. This will be FC Goa captain Mandar's first game since limping out of the Indian Super League finall against Bengaluru in March due to a hamstring injury.

7:35pm: Igor Stimac continues to surprise us and has named a very interesting line-up today. The regular defensive mainstays such as Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das and Pritam Kotal have been left out, while Narender Gahlot has found a place in the starting XI. Anas Edathodika, who came out of retirement, does not feature in the staring XI either.

Stimac has maintained the same attack, with skipper Sunil Chhetri playing striker. Udanta will play on the right with Chhnagte on the left and Sahal down the centre.

7:30pm: LINE UPS!

India XI- Gurpreet (GK), Narender Gahlot, Adil Khan, Rahul Bheke, Mandar Rao Dessai, Anirudh Thapa, Amarjit Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, Udanta Singh, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Sunil Chhetri (C).

Tajikistan XI - Yatimov (GK), Asrorov, Tabrezi, Dzhallov, Barotov, Rahmov, Boboev, Ehsoni, Tursunov, Nazarov, Juraboev (C).

7:20pm: Igor Stimac stated in the pre-match press conference yesterday that the Indian footballers should play 50 games as opposed to 20 games currently. Is he calling for a unified league? More on that here

Indian team heads into Intercontinental Cup with World Cup qualifiers in mind

As the Indian national team prepared to make its second international outing in two months, the new head coach Igor Stimac reminded that the prime objective of his side will be obtaining the necessary impetus for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers starting in September.

The International Cup assignment is primarily being treated as a sparring session for the side to sharpen the skills that would give the team the impetus for the tough challenges ahead.

“Football is so beautiful that it can surprise all of us. I wish we can become one of the nice surprises in the upcoming qualifiers. But I will not make promises. I will do my best on a daily basis working on the players so that they can improve and advance their game. We do not have much time but we will try to use it wisely,” Stimac said. The Croatian gaffer is looking to overhaul the Indian team and also its playing style. 

When the Indian side takes on Tajikistan in the opening game at the EKA Arena here on Sunday, Sunil Chhetri and his colleagues will not just be looking at retaining the title but also at adapting to the new shape and style that Stimac is looking to infuse in the team. 

Retaining the nucleus of side with some seniors like Chhetri, Sandesh Jinghan, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Pritam Kotal, Pronoy Halder, Udanta Singh and Rowllin Borges (and recalling Edathodika Anas from retirement), Stimac has infused a lot of young names who he thinks are the investment for the future.

“It is more important for us get together certain things in our performance that will help us in doing well in the (FIFA World Cup 2022) qualifiers. We are now focused on doing well in the qualifiers and I will not at anytime put pressure on my players about results in this tournament,” was how Stimac lay down the team’s priority.

For the young blood in the side like Anirudh Thapa, Sahal Abdul, Jobby Justin, Mandar Rao Desai it will be about displaying the right attributes which the head coach is looking for.

The fixtures:
July 07: India vs Tajikistan
July 08: Syria vs DPR Korea
July 10: Tajikistan vs Syria
July 13: India vs DPR Korea
July 15: DPR Korea vs Tajikistan
July 16: India vs Syria
July 19: Final