India faces a must-win against Bhutan
It is an unglamorous position. If you save, they say you are only doing your job. If you err, it can mean ‘death'. Karanjit Singh knows life and death under the bar because the equation changes in a flash.
Karanjit has maintained the legacy of India producing good goalkeepers. It is a lonely job, mostly unsung, but he loves it. It reflected in his assured performance which saw India avoid embarrassment in the SAFF Championship match against Afghanistan on Saturday.
A couple of spectacular saves meant the team could rely on Karanjit, as did Salgaocar, which rode on his tenacity to win the I-League and the Federation Cup.
With Subrata Paul nursing a knee injury, the onus is on Karanjit to defend his fort. His initiation to the Indian team was in torrid circumstances in an away match against United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Paul had earned a red card and Karanjit made his debut while giving a good account of himself. Paul is yet to recover from his knee injury.
From the time Peter Thangaraj guarded the goal to the era of Bhaskar Ganguly and S. Brahmanand, Indian football has gained from the good work of the custodians under the bar. To Karanjit's credit, he has emerged from a system that can be taxing when it comes to acquiring support at the right time in a youngster's career.
He needed no academy to hone his skills. Former India coach Sukhwinder Singh spotted him and Karanjit did the rest. Like any good goalkeeper, Karanjit's anticipation and gripping of the ball was his forte, but what stands out is his ability to stop strong shots. He will play a big role as India finds itself in a must-win situation on the eve of its clash against Bhutan.
Make or break
A goalkeeper can make or break a contest. This became evident at the Nehru Stadium when Bangladesh let in an injury time goal in a Group ‘B' match against Nepal. Ironically, the error came from goalkeeper Sahidul Alam, who had kept Bangladesh in the game with some brilliant saves.
Mamun Miyah had defended stoutly for Bangladesh. Not this time. He brought down an overlapping Rabin Shrestha and Bangladesh conceded a free kick well outside the box. It appeared harmless, but turned fatal.
Sagar Thapa stepped up to do what he had been training for some time now. “I knew time was running out (40 seconds left), but I had been practicing this. Thank God it happened,” gushed Thapa.
His free kick floated into the box, sailed over the defence and even as the goalkeeper bent his back to keep the ball out, it dipped in, leaving Bangladesh devastated and Nepal ecstatic. This was Nepal's first victory over Bangladesh in 18 years.
Nepal leads the group with four points from two matches. Maldives and Pakistan have two points each following their goalless draw, while Bangladesh lies fourth with one point.