Anirudh Thapa scored in first-half added time to give India a 1-0 win over Myanmar in the opening match of the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament, at the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal on Wednesday.
Indian wingers Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte were lively from the start as they made repeated forays into the opposing third. Sunil Chhetri had a look from the start, when he headed Thapa’s cross over the crossbar. The India captain had another chance for a corner at the far post, but the effort produced the same result.
Local boy Jeakson Singh, playing a containing role, coped with his task, nipping the Myanmar attacks in the bud. Chhetri had another good chance just after the half hour mark when Chhangte brought him on, but his shot from close range went straight into the goalkeeper’s gloves.
Minutes later, India goalkeeper Amrinder Singh kept the score level at the other end when he deflected Aung Thu’s shot.
India finally found the breakthrough they were looking for during first-half stoppage time when Thapa latched on to a rebound inside the box and past the keeper from close range.
India head coach Igor Stimac decided to give more reason for the Imphal crowd to cheer as he brought in Suresh Wangjam to replace Mohammad Yasir in the second half. Soon after, local boy Naorem Mahesh Singh made his debut as he and Manvir Singh replaced Bipin Singh and Chhangte.
India thought they had added another goal to their tally with just over a quarter of an hour to go in regulation time when Chhetri hammered home Thapa’s cross, but he was ruled offside.
Minutes later, the Indian captain finished off the opponent’s goal, but was saved by the opposing goalkeeper.
As the clock was ticking down, Ritwik Das also had his debut. Das and Roshan Singh replaced Akash Mishra and Thapa. Seconds before the final whistle, the Myanmar goalkeeper had a close shave when Suresh’s shot was parried by the keeper.