India warmed up nicely for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifier match against Kyrgyzstan as they outclassed lower-ranked Nepal 2-0 in an international football friendly.
India dominated most part of the game but had to wait till the 15th minute of the second half to take the lead when defender Sandesh Jhingan found the target.
Another strike, with 11 minutes left for the final whistle, by hardworking midfielder Jeje Lalpekhlua sealed Nepal’s fate and gave the hosts a 2-0 win.
The game was used by Indian chief coach Stephen Constantine to try out various players in the absence of some key men, including star striker Sunil Chhetri who was rested for the game.
Although India won with a comfortable margin, Constantine would not have been pleased with the squandered chances in the first half, most of them by striker Robin Singh who was replaced at the start of the second half.
India now take on Kyrgyzstan at Bengaluru on June 13.
India fluffed quite a few chances and should have been three goals up in the first half had Robin showed better finishing prowess.
The hosts, however, should also consider themselves extremely fortunate at the fag end of the half when Nepal striker Nawayug Shreshta missed to send the ball into the open goal after Indian custodian and captain Gurpreet Sandhu had charged out of his line.
Barring this gilt-edged chance, Nepal – ranked 169 as compared to India’s 100 – mostly played second fiddle to the Indians although they showed some slick passing skills.
India started the game without their talismanic striker Chhetri’s name either in the starting list or in the substitutes list and his job was given to Holicharan Narzary who was replaced by Seityasen Singh midway into the second half.
India also commenced the game without key medio Eugeneson Lyngdoh but he had to be brought in once Rowlinson Borges left the field after having picked an injury.
It was Borges who provided Robin with his first chance with a through pass down the middle which the tall striker booted wide of the post from the left side in the 10th minute.
Then came a lovely floater to Robin, a little while later, from the right flank provided by pint-sized medio Jackichand Singh but the striker headed it wide.
Two more chances came Robin’s way in a five-minute period but he was found wanting on both occasions. Lyngdoh was the man who gave Robin the measured passes soon after coming in as substitute but they went in vain.
At the other end, Norway-based custodian Gurpreet was tested first by a long range shot from Arjan Bista which he coolly collected before he had a rush of blood that nearly put India one-nil down.
He rushed out to the top of the box on seeing Shreshta surge forward to tackle him, but luckily for him and the home side the Nepalese shot wide of the post.
The second half saw the fumbling Robin being replaced by Daniel Lalhimpuia and the Indians showed more intent in taking the lead although it was Nepal who had a first shy when Sujal Shreshta’s stiff shot from well outside the penalty area was well saved by Gurpreet.
The Indians attacked with vigour and the Nepal goal had a close shave when Anan Edathodika headed goalwards off a corner only to see his try being blocked by the visiting custodian Kiran Kumar Limbu.
The Nepal goalie then foiled substitute Bikash Jairu before being beaten by Jhingan’s effort that hit the underside of the bar and went in to give India the lead in 60th minute.
Nepal captain Biraj Maharjan was sent off for a foul on Jairu in the 68th minute, but India wasted the free-kick from just outside the penalty box.
Nepal’s citadel, however, fell again under the sustained spell of pressure from the Indians and the goal-getter was Jeje Lalpekhlua who slotted home off a pass from the left by Mohd Rafique in the 79th minute to give the home side a 2-0 win.