India put in a performance full of dogged resistance and determination to hold a strong Chinese side to a 0-0 draw in Suzhou City on Saturday.
Despite the positive result, the 97th ranked Indian side found it very tough against the 76th ranked China team as they were forced to defend for their lives. Composure in possession was lacking at most times and there were a lot of stray passes from the Indian team.
The defence looked all over the place as they had to resort to last-ditch tackling to try and prevent the opponents from scoring while the forwards were out of sync and couldn't do much.
Stephen Constantine's men put their bodies on the line defensively, making last-ditch blocks and tackles and when they were beaten, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was at his best, using his size and reach to great effect as he repelled all the efforts of the Marcelo Lippi-coached side.
The Blue Tigers created their best chance of the game in the 13th minute when a good exchange of passes between Pronay Halder, Sunil Chhetri and Anirudh Thapa set Pritam Kotal through on goal and the right-back's strong shot was saved by Yan Junling.
The other chance in the first half for the Indians came from Thapa's deep free-kick which found Chhetri in the box with space to shoot but the captain's cleat got stuck in the ground as he went to shoot.
China couldn't create a lot of clearcut chances despite dominating the ball and their best attempt of the first half fell to Gao Lin, whose shot was saved very well with his foot by Gurpreet.
Lippi made three changes at the break and that showed as the home team played with greater intensity and within five minutes, Lin had another opportunity, this time hitting the post.
Soon after, they hit the crossbar after Lin's layoff had allowed Wu Lei to take a shot that rocketed off the crosspiece.
There was another moment of madness in defence for India as Yu Hai's poked attempt was saved on the goalline by Gurpreet, after which there was a melee on the line before the Indians eventually cleared.
India saw Sandesh Jhingan head over from a corner and then got their best chance when Farrukh was put through by Nikhil Poojari but the Chinese goalkeeper saved the attempt.
Rating the best Indian players
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu - 9/10
The goalkeeper was at his best throughout the game, controlling the box well, attacking crosses and using his reach to make saves when called upon. His save in the first half and presence of mind in the second half saved the day.
Anirudh Thapa - 7/10
The Chennaiyin FC man continued his great form for the Indian team as it was his enterprising play in midfield that led to the chance for Kotal in the first half. His free-kick also found Chhetri for a shot that went over the bar.
Always available to get the ball, his energy and passing allowed India to go forward.
Here's how Twitter reacted to a great result for the Indian team -
India were lucky to not concede because China were poor in front of the goal. And on other occasions, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was excellent between the sticks. Of course, lots to learn defensively but a good result overall. #CHNvIND #IndianFootball #— Manasi Pathak (@ThatUnitedLady) October 13, 2018
The Earth Derby: 0-0 , Well played Blue Tigers though it is a draw but proves the dominant level of Indian players in the field, the preparation level of Team India for the upcoming AFC Asian Cup was in a good mode. Proud of u guys.@IndianFootball @afcasiancup— Navaneethan 07 (@Navaneeth7697) October 13, 2018
It will be remembered as one of India's most memorable clean sheets...Very positive result...Constantine has overseen two of India's most credible international friendly results (today's 0-0 and 3-2 win away at Kuwait 14 years ago)— Amoy Ghoshal (@amoy_ghoshal) October 13, 2018
FULL TIME and @IndianFootball come away with a 0-0 draw against China, away from home. It took a little both of both - pluck and luck and India even had a couple of good chances against Marcelo Lippi's side. #CHNvIND— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) October 13, 2018
What a game! WHAT. A. GAME.— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) October 13, 2018
In our first friendly encounter with China in 21 yrs, @IndianFootball holds the fort with a great draw at 0-0! A very hopeful result right before #AFCAsianCup, especially when China is 21 ranks ahead of us!
Great work, #BlueTigers! #CHNvIND
Defence: Supremely out of sync, all over the damn place. ❎— Shyam Vasudevan (@JesuisShyam) October 13, 2018
Chip the ball to strikers chest: Fail. 🙅
Only positive: Gurpreet's timely saves. 🧤
Result: Below par Indian show, sheer pity China didn't find the net. 🥅#CHNvIND @fni #IndianFootball
Ouch. #CHNvIND was a painful watch for @IndianFootball fans.— Amrit (@SgtSaltnPeppa) October 13, 2018
Constantine says we don't have the players to play passing football. Has anybody thought to ask him if he have the physically intense players to play a long ball game?
No plan to win the second ball.
Midfield over-run pic.twitter.com/nD92rhftkK
Fantastic result for @IndianFootball - well played - could have easily nicked the game but oh so proud of going to China and coming home with a clean sheet and a draw. Well played @GurpreetGK you were immense— Parth Jindal (@ParthJindal11) October 13, 2018