India lost the spirit to compete in the second half after Sunil Chhetri fluffed a good chance to score a few minutes before the interval as the international friendly against Nepal ended in a goalless draw here on Monday.
Playing an international game after the 1-2 loss to Guam in the World Cup qualifier mid-June, the home team took time to settle down and appeared to be controlling the match in terms of ball possession and moves, but the failure to find the mark proved a dampener.
C.K. Vineeth provided a flicker of hope in the last minute, but he was dispossessed by Nawayug Shrestha. Nepal would take a lot from the game as it did not concede a goal for the second match in a row.
India coach Stephen Constantine effected six substitutions when play resumed after the break, but he did not disturb the backline of Pritam Kotal, Dhanpal Ganesh and Sandesh Jhingan.
India failed to click in the second half, and was also lucky when Nepal’s substitute K.C. Sushil and Rohit Chand failed to beat Karanjit Singh despite coming up with powerful shots.
Earlier, a weary home team trooped back to the locker room at half-time, clearly disappointed at having missed at least two clear chances.
The likes of star striker Chhetri and Sandesh Jhingan were strategically located in scoring areas to beat Nepal’s last line of defence — goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu. In the 24th minute, Jhingan made his way outside the box and came up with a pile-driver, but the ball bounced back off the right post.
In the closing minutes of the first half, Chhetri, after side-footing a Nepalese defender, missed a sitter with Limbu at his mercy. India held control for a major part of the first session, with Robin Singh being a livewire upfront and posing a genuine threat.
A couple of free kicks and corners kept the Nepal defence on its toes. Robin’s powerful left-footer saw Limbu dive to his left to effect a save. The Indian produced another solid effort in the 30th minute, but it was punched away by Limbu, who, along with Nepal skipper Sagar Thapa, must take credit for thwarting the home team.
India skipper Subrata Paul, who came to the team’s rescue as early as the first minute by punching away a Nepal cross from the right, was substituted by Karanjit in the 63rd minute.
India will play its next World Cup qualifier against Iran in Bengaluru on September 8.