The India U-19 boys stepped onto the international stage after over two years of training. Their baptism by fire came at the SAFF U-19 Championship, where they squared off against the Bangladesh U-19 team at the Dashrath Stadium in Kathmandu, Nepal on Thursday, September 21, 2023, and registered a fluent 3-0 victory.
Gwgwmsar Goyary, Naoba Meitei Pangambam and Arjun Singh Oinam were the scorers as India look to qualify for the knockout stages from Group B. Bhutan are the third and final side in the group.
Group A consists of hosts Nepal, Maldives and Pakistan. The top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals.
The Blue Colts roared into action from the very beginning and dictated the tempo of the game. Attackers like Ishaan Shishodia, Naoba Meitei Pangambam, and Sahil Khurshid relentlessly probed Bangladesh’s defence, making their intentions abundantly clear.
But it was the solid wall of defence, featuring the likes of Jahangir Ahmad Shagoo, Thomas Kanamoottil Cherian, Vijay Marandi, and Ricky Meetei Haobam, that truly held the fort. India’s goalkeeper Lionel Daryl Rymmei showcased his mettle with good saves, defying Bangladesh’s attempts to breach their citadel.
Remarkably, the opening salvo came in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 34 seconds. Ishaan Shishodia received a long ball on the right before sending a cross floating into the box. Bangladesh defender Mohammad Yousuf Ali failed to clear the ball which landed sweetly at the feet of Gwgwmsar Goyary. The India forward didn’t make a mistake as he slotted home India’s first goal.
Bangladesh, though, refused to bow down, launching a thunderous riposte just minutes later. Captain Md Moinul Islam Moin unleashed a rocket of a shot from the edge of the box, only to be thwarted by Rymmei, who tipped it onto the woodwork.
The woodwork stood in the way of Bangladesh yet again in the 40th minute when Razu Ahmed Zisan’s right-footed long-ranger hit the crosspiece.
India, however, struck another goal in the additional time of the first half to extend their lead. A lapse in Bangladesh’s defence opened the door, and Naoba Meitei Pangambam barged through with vengeance in his eyes. The left-footer found its mark, leaving Bangladesh’s goalkeeper, Asif, helpless, and the scoreline reading 2-0 in India’s favour at halftime.
The second half witnessed Bangladesh trying to stage a miraculous comeback, but they were greeted with a relentless Indian defence that refused to yield.
India, though, were not content with a two-goal cushion. In the 71st minute, Sahil Khurshid launched an audacious attack, perfectly timed to Rymmei’s long ball. However, the weight of the pass proved too heavy, dashing their hopes of extending their lead.
But the story wasn’t complete until the final minute of regular time. Indians played a series of passes near the Bangladesh penalty area that finally ended up with a pass from Shishodia to Kelvin Singh Taorem. Taorem allowed the ball to roll past him, presenting an unmarked Arjun Singh Oinam with the golden opportunity. Oinam, with a sense of occasion, unleashed a right-footed shot that found the back of the net.
India will play their next match against Bhutan on September 25.
Report sent by Pratyusha Mukherjee