India begin Intercontinental Cup 2023 campaign with 2-0 victory against Mongolia

The Indian men’s senior team began their Intercontinental Cup 2023 campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over Mongolia at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. This marked their first-ever competitive match in Odisha.

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The Indian team quickly asserted their dominance, with Sahal scoring in the second minute and Lallianzuala Chhangte doubling the lead in the 14th minute. Lebanon had previously defeated Vanuatu 3-1 in the opening game of the Intercontinental Cup 2023, putting them at the top of the standings based on goal difference after the first matchday.

The Indian team, aiming to regain the Intercontinental Cup title they last won in 2018, started strongly. Anirudh Thapa played a key role in the first goal, delivering a low cross into the box from the right wing, which Mongolian goalkeeper Enkhtaivan Munkh-Erdene could only deflect into the path of Sahal Abdul Samad. Sahal made no mistake and scored his third goal for India with a left-footed strike.

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Thapa was also instrumental in the second goal, this time from a corner kick. His cross was met by a powerful header from Sandesh Jhingan, which was cleared off the line by Batbold Baljinnyam. The ball then struck Jhingan again before Chhangte reacted quickly and volleyed it into the net with his left foot.

This goal marked Chhangte’s first for India since his previous strike against DPR Korea in the 2019 Intercontinental Cup. Throughout the game, coach Igor Stimac’s team dominated the midfield and wide areas, utilising the pace of Udanta and Chhangte, as well as the effective midfield trio of Thapa, Sahal, and Apuia, which caused problems for the Mongolian defense.

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Sahal and Apuia both had attempts from outside the area that narrowly missed the target. Udanta was also involved in a penalty shout but the referee waved play on. Although India controlled the game in the first half, they faced some defensive challenges. Anwar Ali made a crucial last-ditch tackle to deny Baljinnyam Batmunkh in one of Mongolia’s rare attacks inside the Indian box.

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The second half saw fewer scoring opportunities as the Mongolian team sat back and defended with numbers. Thapa continued to trouble the Mongolian defense with his set-piece deliveries, and in the 83rd minute, substitute Rohit Kumar’s header from Thapa’s cross struck the crossbar.
India’s next Intercontinental Cup 2023 match is against Vanuatu on Monday, June 12 at 7:30 pm IST.

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