Tonight it was an overall team effort from the Indian national football team against a quality Kyrgyz Republic side, but as has become regular in recent times the standout performer was captain Sunil Chhetri for not only his match winning goal, it was his presence on the field which helped the team.
Sunil has made it a habit to score crucial goals for Team India over the years, often the first goal in a match or the only goal like against Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic in the two qualification matches so far.
And this has been the biggest difference of coach Stephen Constantine and his men in this qualification campaign than to those in the recent past. Stephen had spoken about a winning habit, which many questioned after the dismal 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, but since the 2015/16 SAFF Cup things have turned around, Stephen has found a corset of a first eleven, which has worked for him and the team, giving it stability and a believe to win.
Plus India suddenly are winning matches late like against Myanmar away or avoiding late equalisers like of Kyrgyz Republic striker Vitalij Lux’s chance in injury time due to a great Gurpreet Singh Sandhu safe after Robin Singh and Sunil Chhetri both missed chances to score a second goal just minutes earlier.
Now India have six points from two matches, sit atop the qualification Group A knowing that the top two teams of each of the six groups make it to the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. Two more wins would surely take India to the United Arab Emirates in 2019 and India has its two games, home and away, against the weakest side in their group, Macau still pending.
India are on a good road, but we cannot become complacent or arrogant. The work is not done yet, so boys take us to UAE 2019!!!