Sandesh Jhingan exults with the Tri-Nation Cup, after India drew 1-1 with St Kitts, to clinch the trophy. (Photo: AIFF Media)
Mumbai: India’s eight-match winning streak in international football came to an end on Thursday, when they were held to a 1-1 dray by St Kitts and Nevis, at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Jackichand Singh opened the scoring for India, while Amore Gvaune equalised for St. Kitts. This result helped India clinch the title after topping the points table with a win and a draw.
India made one changes to their starting XI with striker Balwant Singh starting in place of Robin Singh.
India began the game strongly with forwads Balwant and Jeje Lalpekhlua putting pressure on the opposition defenders. However, St Kitts’ defence managed to contain the Indian attack.
While India came close with a couple of chances via Balwant, St Kitts’ Vinceroy Nelson tested India goalkeeper Subrata Paul, but his shot was easily collected by the veteran custodian. Two minutes later, Narayan Das' shot was well saved by St Kitts keeper Jeffers Jamal. India thought that they had taken the lead in the first half, when Balwant Singh deflected the ball into the goal, but he was ruled offside.
India finally opened their account on the 38th minute, after Rowllin Borges' cross from the right was met with a clean header by none other than the shortest player on the pitch – Jackichand Singh, who put India 1-0 ahead with a looping header.
Despite going ahead, India continued to press in search of second goal. Jeje came close to doubling the hosts’ lead in the 42nd minute, but his shot was denied by Jamal. India went into the break with a one-goal lead, thanks to Jackichand Singh's effort.
The Blue tigers continued to dominate their opponents in the second half, after Balwant was replaced by Bengaluru FC striker Robin Singh. Robin had the best chance to double the lead in the 52nd minute, after he was put through on goal by midfielder Rowllin Borges, but the Jamal managed to save the shot.
St Kitts began to find their feet after the hour-mark, and came close in the 70th minute when Carlos Bertie’s right footed shot was saved by Subrata Paul. The Caribbean boys came close from the resulting corner as Benjamin Kevin's effort was tipped over the goal by the veteran keeper.
The equaliser came in the 72nd minute with Tiran Hanley providing the assist to Amory Gvaune. India started to push hard in search of the winning goal, but were unable to get the breakthrough.
Robin Singh was presented with the best chance of the game in during injury time, but his shot was deflected on to the crossbar, before Jamal managed gather it.
Although the Indians would be disappointed at not winning this match, the draw puts them on four points, two ahead of second placed St Kitts, who have drawn both their games.
However, India head coach Stephen Constantine’s main focus will be the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Macau, on September 5.