It needed a late leaping header from defender Adil Khan to ensure hosts India salvaged a draw against Bangladesh in their third FIFA Football World Cup qualifier game at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.
The packed stadium was stunned into silence as a goalkeeping error ended up costing India, who rallied back to get their second consecutive draw.
Straight from kickoff
It was the visitors who started off brightly with winger Biplo Ahmed’s pacey run forcing a last-ditch tackle from Indian defender Rahul Bheke. The tackle was slightly reckless and could have resulted in a penalty, but the referee deemed that the Indian got the ball with his challenge. The hosts soon composed themselves and created their first chance of the evening, with captain Sunil Chhetri landing first to a long ball, but his volley went straight to the keeper.
Following a frantic first five minutes, the game significantly cooled off as chances became sparse. Bangladesh coach Jamie Day packed the midfield to thwart India’s creative players like Anirudh Thapa and Sahal Abdul Samad. With the midfield options restricted, the hosts were forced to go against Igor Stimac’s brand of football and play long balls in a bid to create openings.
The Blue Tigers seemed most threatening from their intricate set plays and corners, but the Bangladeshi backline stood firm. In the 30th minute, a slew of defensive mistakes from the Indian players almost led to Biplo Ahmed scoring for the visitors, but for a late tackle by Bheke.
The visitors though wouldn’t be denied a few minutes later as a freekick from the right forced goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu out of his zone, but he completely missed the ball which allowed forward Saad Uddin to head into an empty net to give Bangladesh a half-time lead.
The Indian side showed greater intent and desire in the second half, with Samad taking on a few opposition players to try and get his side back in the game. The early minutes, post the interval, were very frantic with the hosts applying a more direct approach. India almost got its reward when a low driven cross from the right flank almost fell on the feet of forward Manvir Singh, but Bangladeshi defender Yeasin Khan slotted away the danger.
With the visitors continuing to lead as the game approached the 70-minute mark, coach Stimac decided to make some radical, attacking changes to find a way back. Having initially replaced left-back Mandar Rao Dessai for Brandon Fernandes, the Croat decided to swap Anas Edathodika for Lallianzuala Chhangte.
The move left India short at the back, and it almost ended up costing them a goal as Bangla forward Mohammad Ziban’s chip on the counter got over the Indian shot-stopper but Adil Khan’s heroic clearance saved the day.
Like the first half, India’s main chances came from corners and set plays, and it needed a goal-line clearance from Ahmed to keep his side in the ascendency. The lead though wasn’t to last forever as a corner in the 88th minute ended up being the bane of the Bangladeshi defence. A neatly whipped delivery from Fernandes found an unmarked Adil Khan in the centre, and the defender headed home to save India’s the blushes.
After securing the equaliser, the Indian side pushed hard in search of a winner but time was always going to be their enemy. The Bangla defence stayed firm in the final few moments to ensure they left Kolkata with a share of the spoils.