Phnom Penh (Cambodia), March 22 (IANS) India made heavy weather of their 3-2 win over lower-ranked Cambodia in a FIFA international football friendly at the Olympic Stadium here on Wednesday.
India will play Myanmar in their AFC Asian Cup qualifiers opener on March 28, and this game was billed as a dress rehearsal.
The visitors took time to dust the rustiness off their play after missing out on international football for almost six months. India last played in September against Puerto Rico, a match they won 4-1.
Talismanic forward Sunil Chhetri (36th) opened the scoring for the tourists before Khuon Laboravy (37th) equalised a minute later to help the home team go into halftime 1-1.
Substitutes Jeje Lalpekhlua (50th) and Sandesh Jhinghan (54th) struck in quick succession in the second half to pull away but Stephen Constantine’s wards were kept on tenterhooks till the end of the game as Chan Vathanaka (62nd) pulled one back to make it 3-2.
India took the lead after some poor play to begin with. Chhetri scored under fortituous circumstances as the home goalkeeper Um Sereyroth completely missed Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s corner leaving his Bengaluru FC colleague with the easiest of jobs of tapping into an empty net.
The jubilation lasted only a minute as Cambodia, ranked 173rd compared to India’s 132nd, levelled through Laboravy, who netted at the near post from a Prak Mony Udom low cross which skipper and goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu should have dealt with.
In the second half, India started with a lot of venom and were rewarded within five minutes when Lalpekhlua found the back of the net after Jackichand Singh dribbled past home team players to set up the Mohun Bagan striker whose strike hit the inside of the post and went in.
One minute later, Robin Singh should have made it 3-1 but failed to pull the trigger in time after his former club teammate Lyngdoh teed him up from a brilliant counter attack.
But from the resultant corner, Jhinghan leapt highest to nod in India’s third goal.
There was daylight between the hosts and the visitors for 10 minutes though, as Vathanaka struck from outside the box with no one closing him down. Skipper Gurpreet was at full stretch but failed to save the shot as the ball nestled into the bottom right corner of the net.
India tried hard to increase the deficit against an opponent they had thrashed 6-0 the last time the two sides crossed swords, but their early fizz seemed to have evaporated as Cambodia pressed hard to draw level for the second time in the game.
In the end, there were no further goals as the referee blew the final whistle with the score at 3-2.