India qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 qualifiers after a brilliant performance against Laos in their return leg match in Guwahati on Tuesday. The hosts won the AFC Asian Cup qualifier playoffs second leg 6-1. The aggregate score over the two legs read 7-1.
Jeje Lalpekhlua scored a brace and was on the scoresheet for the second match in a row for India, while Sumeet Passi, Fulganco Cardozo, Mohammad Rafique and Sandesh Jhingan got one goal each as well.
The first half started well for the hosts as the likes of Udanta Singh and Jeje performed well in the attacking third and created a host of chances. The Laos defence however remained resolute and thwarted every single attempt India tried to get the opener of the match.
As the game progressed, Laos started building the momentum and their continuous pressure on the India defence bore fruit as the away side got the opener of the match in the 16th minute through Khonesavanh Sihavong. The chances kept building and Laos had several attempts on the goal but India custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu remained resolute, using his tall frame and reflexes to the fullest.
Around the 40th minute mark, with not much of penetration coming from the right flank, India coach Stephen Constantine decided to take off Udanta and bring in the light-footed Jackichand Singh. That was the masterstroke India needed.
In the next four minutes, Constantine's side scored two goals via Jeje on the 43rd minute mark and Sumeet Passi in the first minute of first half stoppage time. Jackichand picked up the assist for both goals. While the first was a pin-point cross from the right flank, the second was a beautiful pass inside the box to find Passi.
Both Jeje and Passi had no problems at all to slot the ball home.
The goal blitz for the home team continued even after halftime as Sandesh Jhingan headed in the third goal for India in the 48th minute from a freekick. Eugeneson Lyngdoh, who was lively as ever throughout, delivered the ball accurately from the setpiece to pick up his assist.
Jeje got his second of the evening in the 75th minute after capitalising on a pass from Sunil Chhetri and dribbling past a Laos defender to slot home once again. That was not the end. The Mohun Bagan striker kept coming and hit the upright this time in the 82nd minute of the game.
With minutes to go to the end of the match, India completely toyed with the Laos defence and there was absolutely no hope in sight for the away side. Mohammad Rafique joined the list of scorers for India in the 83rd minute as his shot on goal got a deflection from a Laos defender to enter straight into the net.
The one-sided game turned more towards India as Fulganco Cardozo this time found himself on the scoresheet in the 88th minute, heading home a brilliant cross from Jackichand, who picked his third assist in the process.