India started the 2023 Intercontinental Cup with a comfortable win over Mongolia on Friday at the Kalinga stadium, Bhubaneswar. Sahal Abdul Samad opened the scoring in the second minute before Lallianzuala Chhangte doubled it in the 14th minute.
India, ranked 101 in the world, then proceeded to take their foot off the pedal as they coasted to victory over the 183rd-ranked Mongolia. Record-scorer Sunil Chhetri had a quiet game as he dropped deep to allow the wingers -- Udanta Singh and Chhangte -- to run in behind the defense in Stimac's 4-2-3-1 formation which also gave Sahal and Anirudh Thapa plenty of freedom.
Amrinder Singh in goal was hardly threatened while fullbacks Nikhil Poojary and Akash Mishra spent most of their time well up the pitch, bombing past on the overlap as India swarmed all over the Mongolian half. Sandesh Jhingan was solid in the centre, but his partner Anwar Ali had a let-off after a wild challenge from behind on Baljinnyam Batmunkh inside the Indian box was adjudged as a fair one. That bit of action was the closest Mongolia came to threatening India's goal, though.
At the other end, Udanta had a fairly clear-cut call for a penalty dismissed too after he was tripped in the box.
Udanta started brightly on the right wing, before fading as the match progressed. He was substituted out around the hour mark, Chhangte was put back in his usual right wing position and that saw an exponential increase in the threat down India's right late in the match.
India closed out the game fairly comfortably, but will want to sharpen their intensity and final third game before facing tougher opponents in Vanuatu (rank 163) and Lebanon (the only side in the tournament ranked higher than India, at 99).
Earlier in the day, Lebanon eased past a tough Vanuatu side 3-1 with a late flurry of goals. The two favourites, then, sit atop the table after the first matchday.
You can catch all the action from the India match as it happened, minute-by-minute, below --
(The live blog will appear below this line. Please wait a few seconds, but if it doesn't load, please click here)