India rattled past Macau in the qualifying round encounter for the AFC Asian Cup final spot against Macau at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday. India outclassed their opponents 4-1 on a remarkable outing to ensure that they are on flight for the Asia Cup, 2019 which is to be organised in the UAE. Undefeated so far in the group, India maintained their winning run with Rowllin Borges netting the opener for the Blue Tigers. Borges capitalised on a huge mistake from Macau defender as the ball deflected back at his feet and he did justice to it by sliding it past the goalkeeper in the 28th minute.

Macau come back strongly after conceding the lead as Nicholas Tarrao scored the equaliser for the visitors in the 37th minute to make it 1-1 on half time. India’s goalkeeper Gurpreet Sandhu was not expecting that as he kept his eye glued on the cross but Tarrao jumped into the space and dashed the header past Sandhu to see his side levelled before halftime.

India started off the second half with a substitution as Balwant Singh was called off for Jackichand Singh. Skipper Sunil Chhetri had a silent outing in the game up till the 60th minute when he tapped in a pass from Balwant Singh to give the lead to India. Chhetri not only sealed the lead but also give India the lost momentum as they begin the assault on their opponents. Balwant Singh was continuously threatening as he kept striding forward with scary runs and produced phenomenal display for his side. India was gifted the 3rd goal as Jeje Lalpekhlua dashed a brilliant through ball which made Balwant run forward as he passed the ball back to Chhetri and it flicked through the defenders toe to see Macau fell through completely. It was the 3rd time Chhetri found the back of net in India’s 4 game winning streaks in the qualifiers.

Balwant Singh’s impressive run is likely to earn him a permanent place in Stephen Constantine’s formidable side. Jeje netted his first and India’s 4th of the day as he finished the job in the 90th minute to see off Macau 4-1. Kanteerava crowd was on fire as they saw their heroes absolutely dismantle their rivals to realize the ‘Asian Dream.’

Asia Cup is scheduled to take place in 2019 and India have 2 long years at their bay to prepare for the elite competition which will feature the best of Asian sides. Going by India’s recent performances the future certainly looks bright.

“It’s a great feeling to qualify for the Asian Cup. Very happy with the way boys performed. In the second-half, we spoke about bouncing back. It felt so bad when we missed the qualification last time around. You don’t get to play the best teams in Asia quite often so it’s a great chance now. We are India, we will put our head down and work even harder, said skipper Sunil Chhetri after the game.

This qualification is going to transform Indian football in every possible way as they will be now considered among the elite football nations of the continent. So far Palestine, Oman and India have qualified for the Asian Cup 2019.

First Published | 12 October 2017 1:46 AM
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