India and Lebanon play out a scoreless draw in the pre-finale match

Sandesh Jhingan’s performance in the back earned India another clean sheet

India ended the group stages of the 2023 Intercontinental Cup with a 0-0 draw against Lebanon at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar. Both sides missed plenty of chances as they prepare to face each other once again in the final. 

India started the match in a 4-4-2 formation with Igor Stimac entrusting Amrinder Singh with the gloves. Sandesh Jhingan and Anwar Ali played as the central defenders while Akash Mishra and Nikhil Poojary played as the left-back and right-back respectively. 

Anirudh Thapa and Jeaskon Singh played at the centre with Udanta Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte deployed at the wings. Ashique Kuruniyan and Sahal Abdul Samad played as the two men up front with Jhingan donning the armband in Chhetri’s absence.

Ali Sabeh donned the gloves for Lebanon in a 4-3-3 formation. Mohammad El Hayek and Hussein Zein played as the two central defenders with Nader Matar and Walid Shour playing as the full-backs. Jihad Ayoub, Zein Farran, and Ali Tneich played as the three central midfielders while Hassan Maatouk, Soony Saad, and Karim Darwich were deployed as the three forwards. 

Lebanon got the first chance of the game in the 2nd minute when Shour aimed for glory from distance but it sailed over the crossbar. Two minutes later, it was India’s turn to go one goal up when Chhangte laid a pass towards Thapa inside the box. Despite being in a one-on-one position, Thapa failed to find the target. 

Lebanon was awarded two free-kicks at the 15th-minute mark of the game in the opposition’s half. However, in both cases, Jhingan nodded the ball away to safety. Four minutes later, Ashique was presented with a wonderful opportunity from the edge of the box but he aimed the ball straight towards the keeper. 

In the 32nd minute, Saad’s goalbound header almost found the net but Amrinder dived full-fledged to make a save. Lebanon almost took the lead from India’s mistake ten minutes later when Saad capitalized on a misplaced pass inside the box. However, Poojary made a vital block at the last moment to save his side.

Nikhil Poojary was a rock at the right-back position

Udanta, who moved to the left flank after the change of sides, linked up beautifully with Akash to set up Thapa. However, the latter failed to reach the end of the ball. Chhangte combined nicely with Udanta inside the box. However, Udanta took too much time in turning himself and failed to keep his shot on target. 

Rahim Ali substituted Ashique at the hour mark and was presented with a glorious chance in the 84th minute. Thapa pierced the Lebanese defense with a through ball but rather than taking a shot, Ali tried to make a backpass towards Sahal. The ball did not reach any of the Indian players and trickled away for a goal kick. 

Another substitute Naorem Mahesh Singh made a whipping cross from the left flank towards Chhetri but the captain failed to reach there in time. In the 90th minute, Chhetri almost found the net with a header off a corner kick but the ball came off his shoulder. 

Lebanon was relatively quiet in the second half as compared to the first one but would be eager to bounce back on the finals on Sunday. Earlier in the day, Vanuatu beat Mongolia 1-0 to dash the latter’s hopes of reaching a final. That result confirmed Lebanon’s place in the final regardless of the outcome of the game. 

Igor Stimac will not be happy with his side’s performance, especially their finishing. The likes of Rahim, Anirudh, and Ashique need to do better in the absence of Chhetri. With Manvir Singh and Ishan Pandita missing the tournament due to injuries, India needs to find strikers who can find the back of the net regularly.