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‘Dil khush kar diya’ – Fans elated as Sunil Chhetri inspires narrow 1-0 win over Bangladesh in Asian Games

India keep their qualification hopes alive with a last-ditch win over Bangladesh.

Sunil Chhetri during IND vs BAN

Sunil Chhetri’s 85th-minute penalty saw India over the finish line in their Asian Games clash against Bangladesh. With the win India stayed alive in the competition and kept their qualification hopes alive. However, this resulted in the end of the road for Bangladesh.

Just a month before the Asian Games, when the All India Football Federation (AIFF) had unveiled a robust squad for the tournament, the prospects of the Indian men’s team making it in Hangzhou seemed remote. However, with what Coach Igor Stimac described as a ‘third or fourth-choice team, he faced a daunting task to guide the team through the group stages and into the knockout rounds.

In their opening match, a 1-5 loss to China, Stimac had only 17 players at his disposal – five players were yet to join the squad in Hangzhou, including three goalkeepers. Among those yet to join the team, only Narender Gahlot, Gurkirat Singh, and Aniket Jadhav were expected to arrive in the early hours of the matchday.

Rahul KP scored the solitary goal in India’s previous encounter

Despite the depleted squad, India were still considered the favorite to defeat Bangladesh and Myanmar in their upcoming group matches, starting with a game against Bangladesh at the Xiaoshan Sports Centre stadium on Thursday. Notably, Bangladesh had suffered a 0-1 defeat to Myanmar in their opening match before facing India. So, this is Bangladesh’s second consecutive defeat which sends them out of contention.

Stimac could draw encouragement from several new faces in the squad, including Gurmeet Singh, Lalchungnunga, Ayush Dev Chhetri, Sumit Rathi, Bryce Miranda, and Abdul Anjukandan, as they gained experience on the international stage. Gurmeet, who conceded five goals, deserved recognition for the numerous saves he made in his debut for Team India. Winger Rahul KP’s goal had leveled the score at halftime for a team that had come together at the eleventh hour. Now, Sunil Chhetri’s solitary goal keeps Indian hopes alive. They’ll next face Myanmar in the Asian Games 2023.

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