Such moments of solitude last maybe thirty seconds, or maybe forty seconds. After all it's the last kick of the match.
Hail Sunil Chhetri, the Indian National Team Captain. On the edge of the rival box with the Bangladesh wall trying to steal that extra step to come forward, he curled it enough for it the ball to sail over the wall yet dip enough to bulge - a goal which took him past IM Vijayan and a goal behind Bhaichung Bhutia as India's highest-ever goalscorer; a goal which he will surely with hi for long, or maybe, forever.
India dominated all throughout but paid for missed chances to split points with Bangladesh and settle for a one-all draw. Much against the run of play Atiqur Rahaman Meshu had put Bangladesh in the lead in the 83rd minute only to Sunil's curler to make it one-all.
India pressed early and with it seized the momentum. There was buildup from the back and support for each other. Passes were exchanged as play was switched from one side to the other. It resulted in a flurry of chances which unfortunately went abegging in the first half.
The first chance came in the 8th minute when an overlapping Nirmal Chettri found Francis Fernandes on the right. Francis who was impressive with his timely runs sped past Waly Faisal and essayed a centre but an unmarked Sunil Chhetri's volley just went over.
The very next minute another of Chhetri's efforts went off the mark and then Jewel Raja failed to pull the trigger after the triangle of Lenny Rodrigues, Mehtab Hossain and Chhetri had done the spadework.
Mountains watched from a distance. But none were snow-capped; rather all cloud-capped. With the sun playing hide and seek, you found a new set of clouds kissing the green mountains every five minutes.
The barrage of Indian attacks pushed Bangladesh into their own territory and other than a moment when Nirmal rushed in to deny Taklis Ahmed, Bangladesh weren't able to break free in the first half.
Rather, the action always stayed confined to the other side. In the 36th minute, Francis who till then had done no wrong, volleyed a loose ball off a Mohanraj long-throw but it sailed over. Minutes later Francis was brought down at the far end and off the resultant Mehtab free-kick, Chhetri did time his jump to perfection but lady luck didn't stay by his side.
Post resumption, the trend continued and along with Chhetri's bad luck. In the 12th minute, Chhetri snatched it form the top of the rival Goal area, entered the box but his placement went wide.
Was it infectious? It seemed so. In the 71st minute, Dawson Fernandes who came in as a substitute set up Francis in the clear but his diagonal shot hit the side net. By then Arata Izumi was warming up on the far side.
Sunil was kept on a double marking by the two rival stoppers. They closed down whenever he received the ball. On one such occasion he went past both and laid it for Gouramangi to slot it home but rival Captain Nasiruddin Chowdhury recovered in time. Off the next attack, Francis received it in the clear but muffed.
The inevitable goal came two minutes later, in the 83rd minute. But much against the run of play, Bangladesh scored when Atiqur Rahaman Meshu scored off a melee following a corner.
Bangladesh immediately went back to defend with 10 men even as India went all out. Another of Chhetri's shot missed narrowly. And then came the Chhetri magic in injury time.
India: Subrata Paul; Nirmal Chettri, Gouramangi Singh, Arnab Mondal, Mohanraj Nallappan; Francis Fernandes (Robin Singh - 85th), Lenny Rodrigues (Arata Izumi - 77th), Mehtab Hossain, Jeje Lalpekhlua (Dawson Fernandes - 65th), Jewel Raja Shaikh, Sunil Chhetri (Captain).
--IBNS (Posted on 03-09-2013)