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AFC Asian Cup qualifier, India vs Macau

12 October 2017

Off a build-up down the left, Rowllin Borges hit a shot on goal after receiving the ball from Jeje Lalpekhlua.

The last time India reached the main stage of Asian football's showpiece event through the direct qualification route was in 1984. One of Spiegler's two goals came off the penalty spot against India in a 2-0 win, that meant Israel won their only Asian Cup title, while India had to settle for second place.

After the restart, India took control. Jeje took advantage of some sloppy ball handling form Macau to feed Balwant, who squared for Chettri's tap-in in the 60th minute. Sunil Chettri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sandesh Jhingan and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu have all been crucial to the Indian cause so far and are all expected to feature in the match.

On a night where it rained nearly all throughout, India pressed the pedal from right from the kick-off.

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In the 20th minute, Lao Pak Kin was yellow carded for pulling Sunil Chhetri off the ball, but Chhetri's free-kick sailed over. Borges was looking to curl it towards the left of Fai, but a deflection off central midfielder Lam Ngai Tong carried it into the Macau net on the other side, wrong-footing the Macau goalkeeper.

Borges' put India in the lead in the 28th minute but it didn't last long - Nicholas Mario sneaking in between the defenders to head it in nine minutes later.

Even as India very much like the first half seized the initiative, it was not until the 55th minute that the Blue Tigers had a shy at the goal. Balwant Singh was continuously threatening as he kept striding forward with scary runs and produced phenomenal display for his side.

Chhetri, as he is wont to do, scored his 55th worldwide goal in the 60th minute and two minutes later, Balwant the feeder could have sealed it but his placement just went wide after an onrushing Man Fai had managed to narrow down the angle.

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The Blue Tigers nearly regained their lead in the 59th minute, but Jhingan's header off Lyngdoh's outswinging corner was tipped for a corner by a diving Ho Fai. Balwant's build and tenacity makes him the ideal attacking player to unlock the expectedly dogged Macau defence, as he did in the first leg, coming on as a second-half substitute and bagging a brace in India's 2-0 win.

With the issue all but sealed, Salam Ranjan Singh made his debut at the back in the 77 th minute.

The match was put to bed in the 70th minute, when an unlucky Seng found his own net. Gaining three more points will be as good as ensuring a plane to the UAE in 2019 to participate in the AFC Asian Cup.

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AFC Asian Cup qualifier, India vs Macau