Kolkata: India continued it’s fine run in the AFC Asian cup qualifiers as striker Balwant Singh came off the bench to score a brace, helping India register a 2-0 victory against Macau at the Macau Olympic Complex on Tuesday.
Balwant, who was impressive in the tri-series tournament was not given a start as coach Constantine instead opted for Jeje as the lone striker in a 4-3-2-1 formation.
The addition of captain Sunil Chhetri, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Udanata Singh gave much more boost to the already strong team.
In what can be called a one-sided performance, India started the match on a positive note as Macau preferred to play deep. The men in blue had a large share of possession in the first half but could not open the scoring, with the best chance of half coming to Eugeneson Lyngdoh whose shot in the 36th minute hit the crossbar with Holicharan failing to score from the rebound.
Jeje, who was ineffective in the first half failing to convert a few chances which he would have scored otherwise on any given day, was replaced by Balwant in the second half. His entrance opened up the Macau defence, with Balwant using his height well to reach out to juicy crosses from both Pritam and Narayan from either side.
In the 57th minute, Balwant headed in a perfect Narayan Das delivery into the goal to break the deadlock and score his second goal for the country. The goal opened up the stubborn Macau back-line as crosses flew in from both sides with Chhetri’s header hitting the crossbar.
A similar cross in the 81th minute was sent into the Macau defence which defender Lam Ngai Tong failed to clear, instead putting it in the path of Balwant. The 30-year old latched onto this opportunity and made no mistake, as he lobbed the ball over keeper Ho Man Fai to seal the win for the visiting side.
Hoshiarpur born Balwant who had made his debut for the national team again Mauritius in the just concluded tri-series, has now scored three goals in as many matches and looks another promising star whom Constantine can rely on.
With this win India now remain on top the table, six points clear of second placed Myanmar and will next play Macau in the return leg on 10th of October.
Constantine, ‘happy’ with the win
Head coach Stephen Constantine was one happy man at the end of India’s 2-0 win over Macau and was very satisfied with the way the men in blue put in their effort to clinch the victory which has helped them to stay right at the top in Group A.
He said, “Congratulations on the victory. It was very difficult to break down their defence. It is a very valuable win for us. And we stay on top of Group A with 9 points.”
“It was very hard to break them down as they were defending with 8 or 9 men. So we are happy with the 2-0 victor,” he further added.
He was also happy with Balwant Singh’s performance as his goals turned out to be the difference maker between both the sides.
Said Constantine, “Balwant scored two goals tonight. He did what he was asked to do. He could have scored four but I will take two.”