India outshines Macau to qualify for 2019 Asian Cup
Bengaluru: India outclassed Macau 4-1 here on Wednesday to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup football tournament.
Rowllin Borges (28th minute) put India ahead in the first half before Sunil Chhetri (60th) and Jeje Lalpekhlua (90+2) found the net after the break.
Macau defender Man Fai Ho scored an own goal in the 70th minute while trying to clear a pass into the penalty box by India's Halicharan Narzary.
Nicholas Mario de Almeida Torrão scored the lone goal for the visitors in the 37th minute.
This is the fourth time that India have qualified for the Asian Cup. The last time they qualified was six years ago when they won the AFC Challenge Cup to book their tickets to the 2011 Asian Cup.
The last time India reached the main stage of Asian football's showpiece event through the direct qualification route was in 1984.
India's best result at the Asian Cup came in 1964 when they finished runners-up to hosts Israel.
The Indians have been in impressive form, winning all the four group matches they have played so far to ensure qualification in style.
The men in blue sit at the top of their group with 12 points, having scored eight goals and conceding only one.
Kyrgyzstan are second with four points from three matches, the same as third placed Myanmar. The Central Asians however, are ahead on goal difference. Macau are at the bottom having lost all their four matches.
Even if India lose their remaining two matches, they will still finish among the top two spots in the group which will be enough to book their tickets to the United Arab Emirates for the 2019 edition of Asian football's showpiece event.
The hosts dominated right from the start, with the Macau defenders struggling to keep up with the red hot pace of the Indian forwards.
The Indians made their domination count when Narayan Das fired in a low cross from the left wing which was met by a Jeje backheel.
The ball was blocked by a Macau defender but Jeje pounced on the rebound and picked out Borges at the top of the box.
Borges did well to make space and fire in a powerful shot which took a lucky deflection off a Macau defender to find the back of the net.
Although Torrao managed to equalise for the visitors before the break, the Indians continued to dominate but the visitors managed to deny them with some desperate defending.
Chhetri doubled the lead following a fast counter-attack that saw the Indians win the ball in their own half before Balwant Singh make a lightning quick run down the right flank and find his captain with a diagonal pass inside the Macau penalty box.
It was the 55th international goal for Chhetri.
The hosts continued to apply the pressure which led to Macau conceding the third goal.
Jeje scored India's fourth after being fed by Chhetri in the dying minutes.