India produced a disjointed performance, and only an opportunistic goal from Adil Khan in the 82nd minute helped the hosts salvage a point against Bangladesh in a 2022 World Cup qualifier at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Bangladesh, who produced a spirited away performance, especially when defending, had taken the lead through Saad Uddin in the 42nd minute, and had a few more opportunities to double the lead in the second half, but were left to rue tired bodies and minds that switched off for one moment in the second half.
India, who welcomed back Sunil Chhetri into their starting eleven, also had Ashique Kuruniyan returning to the team. It was Rahul Bheke, though, who summed up a poor first half from India, nearly conceding a penalty inside the opening minute, when he appeared to mistime a tackle in the penalty box against Mohammad Ibrahim.
Bheke, who was outpaced yet again in the eighth minute by Ibrahim down the left flank for Bangladesh, had to back-track and put in a last-ditch shoulder push to deny the Bangladesh winger a shooting opportunity. Bangladesh were the first team to enforce a save, when striker Nabib Ziban glanced a cross from the right after Mandar Rao Dessai had missed out on a clean challenge against Biplo Ahamed. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was up to the task of deflecting the ball away.
Sandhu, however, produced a howler in the 42nd minute. A free-kick was floated into the India box by Bangladesh captain Jamal Bhuyan -- the foul had again come from Bheke -- and Sandhu lost the ball in a maze of bodies as he rose to collect. Sandhu, Adil, Bheke and Anas Enathodika could only look on in horror as the ball fell to Saad for a simple tap-in.
India began the second half with more purpose, but were thwarted by a superb defensive performance led by centre-back Yeasin Khan, who played with a bandage after a collision early in the game with India's Ashique Kuruniyan. India almost paid the price for some lax defending on 73 minutes, when Ziban was able to sneak into the box and chip Sandhu, but the Indian goalkeeper got a fingertip to take the sting off the ball, and Adil rushed back to clear the ball off the line.
Eventually, India's relentless pressure paid off as Adil glanced a low header into the near post after a corner was sent in by substitute Brandon Fernandes.
India have two points from three games, while this is Bangladesh's first point of the World Cup qualifiers. India's next game, away to Afghanistan on November 14, is scheduled to be played in Dushanbe, and will mean India would have faced all four of their group opponents once. Only the top two teams are assured of progress to the next stage of World Cup qualifying, with a guaranteed berth at the 2023 Asian Cup.
Here's how the match unfolded. Please wait a couple of moments for the blog to load. If it still doesn't, click here.