Manvir Singh’s goal powers India to a 1-0 win over Kuwait away from home
The Indian national football team started their 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Kuwait at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait City in the second round of the competition. Manvir Singh’s goal was enough for the Blue Tigers to seal the win in a tightly-knit encounter.
India coach Igor Stimac had to be content without the services of Jeakson Singh, Anwar Ali, and Ashique Kuruniyan as the trio are still nursing injuries. The Croatian fielded his side in a 4-3-3 formation with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu donning the gloves.
Sandesh Jhingan and Rahul Bheke guarded the heart of the defense while Akash Mishra and Nikhil Poojary bombarded down the left and right flanks respectively. Suresh Singh Wangjam, Lalengmawia Ralte, and Sahal Abdul Samad formed the midfield trio with Naorem Mahesh Singh, Sunil Chhetri, and Manvir Singh playing as the three forwards.
Kuwait coach Rui Bento fielded his side in a 4-4-2 formation. Abdulrahman Kameel donned the gloves while Athbi Saleh, Khaled El Ibrahim, Hassan Hamdan Al-Enezi, and Sultan Al Enezi formed the back four. Mohsen Ghareeb, Fahad Al Hajeri, Redha Hani, and Mohammad Abdullah formed the quartet of midfield players playing behind the strike-pairing of Mubarak Al Faneni and Shabib Al Khaldi.
Kuwait got the first chance of the game in the third minute when Abdullah surged inside the box after collecting a cross from the left flank. However, Gurpreet came out of his line to collect the ball quickly.
Then, Naorem Mahesh won the possession in the final third in the eighth minute for India and fed the ball towards Manvir but the latter’s shot rolled rather tamely into the keeper’s hands.
Abdullah aimed for glory from a distance in the 17th minute but it sailed over the crossbar as Kuwait kept on knocking on India’s door.
A couple of minutes later, a fast counter-attack from India found Sahal Abdul Samad in the penalty three, albeit alone with too much to do against three defenders. But, the Blue Tigers swiftly recycled the attack and Poojary’s cross from the right flank was fired into the roof of the net by Chhetri. The ball sailed agonizingly close over the crossbar as India nearly took the lead making their intentions clear.
In the 28th minute, Mahesh’s free-kick spelt danger with Poojary getting a deflection in the last moment but Kuwait’s goalkeeper positioned himself perfectly to collect the ball. India continued to bombard forward, especially through the right flank but the moves were thwarted in the final moments due to sloppy decision-making.
Kuwait registered their first shot on target in the 37th minute when Abdullah cut past his marker and took a shot from inside the box with his right foot but it was routine catching practice for Gurpreet in the end.
The first half saw very few goalmouth actions as both sides decided to play it safe. The midfield was scrappy with wrong offside calls being given against India. The scoreline stayed 0-0 but both the teams came out as a different unit after the change of sides.
Kuwait started the second half on a bright note as they nearly got the lead when Abdullah stepped up to take a free-kick and he found Al Hajery with a free header but the latter’s glancing header was inches high over the crossbar.
In the 60th minute, Mahesh found Chhetri with his low free-kick from the edge of the box but the latter’s final shot was blocked by the host of Kuwaiti defenders. Igor Stimac replaced Mahesh with Lallianzuala Chhangte on the left flank and it proved to be the turning point of the game as the game turned on its head.
Suresh’s attempt from distance in the 71st minute more out of frustration than anything else ballooned into the night sky as India continued searching for their first goal. The drought was finally broken five minutes later when Manvir found the net.
Akash Mishra burst through the left flank and made a through pass towards Chhangte. The Mumbai City winger crossed the ball perfectly in the path of Manvir who volleyed the ball into the far post with his low powerful shot.
After taking the lead, it was all about defending as Stimac replaced two Mohun Bagan SG players with two MBSG players as Sahal Abdul Samad and goalscorer Manvir made way for Anirudh Thapa and Liston Colaco.
In the 80th minute, Abdullah sneaked between Jhingan and Bheke but before he could poke the ball past the keeper Gurpreet made himself big to avert the danger.
In the fourth minute of additional time, Kuwait suffered a massive blow to their chances as Faisal Al Harbi got his marching orders. Already on a yellow card, Al Harbi showed a high boot towards Suresh Wangjam and kicked him on his stomach. The action happened right in front of the referee as he showed the second yellow card of the evening to the midfielder.
In the end, Rohit Kumar and Rahul KP were given a runout of under a minute as the duo replaced Suresh Wangjam and Chhetri. The referee blew the full-time whistle as India beat Kuwait 1-0. Stimac’s men will next take on Qatar at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday while Kuwait would like to regroup themselves when they square off against Afghanistan in their next fixture in the second round of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.