Imphal, Mar 22 (IANS): India clinched a 1-0 victory over Myanmar at the Khuman Lampak Stadium, in the opening match of the Tri-Nation International Football Tournament on Wednesday.
Given India's dominance over their rivals for most of the outing, the scoreline would have been bigger, but missed chances combined with the luck factor kept the victory margin at the bare minimum. Anirudh Thapa, the lone goalscorer of the game, was adjudged the Hero of the Match.
A partisan crowd filled up the stands long before the match could start as the Blue Tigers put on a show that genuinely delighted the spectators of Imphal, the city organising its first-ever Senior Men's international tie.
India's wingers Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte looked lively from the start, as they looked to make inroads into the opposition third.
Sunil Chhetri had an early look in, as he headed a cross by Anirudh Thapa over the crossbar. The India captain had another chance from a flag kick at the far post, but the effort produced the same result.
Myanmar may have been somewhat shell-shocked by the sheer number of supporters for India, but they did look to use the wings on the counter. However, local boy Jeakson Singh, playing a holding role, stood up to his task, nipping the attacks in the bud.
Chhetri had a golden chance a little over the half-hour mark, when Chhangte played him in, but his shot from point-blank range was straight at the keeper. Minutes later, India keeper Amrinder Singh kept the scores level at the other end, when he put his big gloves in the way of an Aung Thu effort.
The Blue Tigers finally found the breakthrough they were looking for during the injury time of the first half as Thapa latched on to a stray rebound inside the box and smashed it past the keeper from close range, as India headed into the dressing room the happier of the two sides.
India head coach Igor Stimac decided to give more reason for the Imphal crowd to cheer, as he brought on Suresh Wangjam instead of Mohammad Yasir in the second half. Soon after, local boy Mahesh Singh got his debut as he and Manvir Singh replaced Bipin Singh and Chhangte.
India thought they had added another goal to their tally with a little over a quarter of an hour of regulation time left when Chhetri poked in a Thapa cross, but he was flagged offside. The India captain had a crack at the rival goal just minutes later, but it was saved by the opposition keeper this time. As the clock wore down, Ritwik Das was given his debut, as Das and Roshan Singh replaced Akash Mishra and Anirudh Thapa. Seconds before the final whistle, the Myanmar goal had a close shave when Suresh's shot was saved by the custodian.