Coach Stephen Constantine employed as many as five substitutions but the deadlock was not broken. In the first half, the 156th-ranked hosts played mostly in the rival half. The back four almost played around the centre-line and quick interchanges, switching, transitions and one-twos keeping Nepal, ranked 184, guessing.
Eugenson Lyngdoh’s overhead in the 44th minute evaded the Nepal defence and stooped for the onrushing Sunil Chhetri to take it all the way in to the box. But even as Chhetri, with his feint sent the rival custodian Limbu Kiran the other way, his placement just went wide.
That apart, Francis Fernandes hit the post in the 20th minute when he tried to blast in a rebound following Lyngdoh’s corner. Francis also had a shy at the goal when Limbu came up with back-to-back saves to first, frustrate Robin Singh and then Jeje Lalkephlua. And even as Francis tried to place in the rebound, it deflected for a corner.
Changing over, Constantine made three substitutions. Rowlin Borges was handed his debut as he replaced Lyngdoh while Jackichand Singh came in for Francis. Furthermore, Karanjit Singh came in for Subrata Paul – Chhetri Captaining the side in the 2nd half. As was the story in the first half, corners were earned regularly and almost every time, but Nepal managed to keep it off. In the 62nd minute, Robin couldn’t make the most of a free header off Jacki’s corner.
CK Vineeth came in as the fourth substitution in the 66th minute and had his first shy at the goal three minutes later. And a minute before that, the lanky Limbu timed his jump to perfection to deny Sandesh heading in a Jacki corner. The fifth substitution came in the 73rd minute – Cavin Lobo coming in for debutant Pranoy Halder who all throughout was omnipresent, available for support and willing to ‘fight.’
Lobo made his way past two in the 79th minute and even as a full stretched Linbu managed to keep his left footer away, rival captain Bharat Thapa cleared it in time as Robin tried to poach. The next minute, Chhetri, after shrugging off his marker shot from just outside the box, but it agonizingly went wide. The sizeable crowd, loud, with his drums and bugles, did cheer till the end, but the deadlock wasn’t broken.
Prior to the match, the GPS systems were inserted in the jackets as Team India took the field wearing GPS trackers for the first time ever in Indian Football history. The starting XI had Halder making his debut for India, in the process becoming the 496th Player to play for his country.