The Indian football team’s disastrous performance at the international level continued as they went down 0-3 to Tajikistan in an international friendly in Khujand on Wednesday.
Davronov Nuriddin (12th minute), Fatkhuloev Fatkhullo (18th minute) and Akhtam Khamrakulov (90+3) scored for the home team at the 20 Years of Independence Stadium.
The Indian team — playing an international friendly after a long gap — gave a poor account of themselves as Tajikistan looked a far better side in front of the 10,000 odd spectators who came in support of the national team.
Tajik players used the wide areas to good effect as they made forays from the flank. India No 2 custodian Sandeep Nandy, who is nearly 39 years old also wasn’t in his element.
The home team were rewarded as early as the 12th minute when Fatkhullo sprinted down the left and kept a low centre which was tapped in by an onrushing Nuriddin. Defenders Raju Gaekwad and debutant Arnab Mondal were not in position to stop Nuriddin from scoring.
Conceding an early goal made matters worse for Wim Koevermans’ boys who were without two of their best players Syed Rahim Nabi and Subrata Paul — both dropped from squad from not doing pre-season training.
Tajikistan went up by 2-0 when Vasiev Dilshod dodged Nirmal Chettri but the latter brought him down just outside the box. Fatkhullo, whose assisted during the first goal curled one perfectly as the ageing Nandy’s desperate late dive wasn’t enough to prevent a second goal.
The only time India had a clear sight at goal was in the 24th minute when left winger Clifford Miranda latched on to a long throw from Raju Gaekwad and unleashed a rasping left-footer.
However the shot was directed straight at the goalie and Tuychiev Alisher didn’t have any problems in punching the ball away.
Age seemed to have caught up with Nandy as the near-40 custodian pulled up a muscle and was replaced by Karanjeet Singh just at the stroke of half-time.
Koevermans made two substitutions in the second half: Lalrindika Ralte replaced Lenny Rodrigues and Arata Izumi came in for Sheikh Jewel Raja.
At the start of the second half, skipper Sunil Chhetri, receiving a long-ball from Francis Fernandes found Miranda in the clear. Miranda did enter the box but his left-footer was way off the target.
In the 66th minute, Francis Fernandes did the spadework to get past Nazarov Akhtam entering the box down the right flank. However a horribly off-colour Sunil was nowhere in position to convert Fernandes’ assist.
The Indian captain was finally replaced by Dawson Fernandes while veteran Shylo Malswamtluanga came in for Miranda as the fifth substitution.
Dawson could have almost scored with his first touch but rival Goalkepeer Alisher anticipated Arata’s through pass to foil the attempt. The very next moment, Alisher denied Mehtab Hossain in the same manner.
Koevermans got big-bodied Robin Singh in the 77th minute as the sixth substitution in place of Hossain but that had little effect on the flow of the game. The home team scored the third and final goal in the third minute of stoppage time as Akhtam cashed in on another defensive lapse.
India next play arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening match of the SAFF Championship in Kathmandu on September 1.
India: Sandip Nandy (Karanjit Singh, 43rd), Nirmal Chhetri, Gouramangi Singh, Arnab Mondal, Raju Gaekwad, Francis Fernandes, Mehtab Hossain (Robin Singh, 77th), Lenny Rodrigues (Lalrindika Ralte, 46th), Clifford Miranda (Shylo Malswamtluanga, 68th), Jewel Raja Shaikh (Arata Izumi, 46th), Sunil Chhetri (Dawson Fernandes, 68th).