Indian talisman bids adieu

Bhutia leads national team for final time in 0-4 loss to Bayern Munich

There was never a doubt about the outcome. The exhibition match between India and the top German club Bayern Munich walked the predictable course, the hosts humbled 0-4, and yet Bhaichung Bhutia could not have asked for a better farewell.

The Sikkimese Sniper was greeted with a thunderous roar when he stepped on to the field at the  Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. And when he decided to leave after 86 minutes, the crowd was on its feet, giving the most successful Indian footballer a befitting farewell.

The occasion was not lost on the players either and the action on the field halted briefly as players from both the teams shook hands with Bhutia in an emotional gesture that the legendary striker would cherish fondly.

Before the kick-off, Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm, on behalf of his team, presented Bhutia with a red Bavarian jersey with the Indian’s name and jersey number (15) on it.
The crowd, too, added to the occasion by turning out in good numbers, spurring the national ream and reserving a few cheers for the German outfit on a nippy night.

The crowd followed every move of  Bhutia and many stayed back till the last, waving and cheering, as Bhutia took a short lap of the stadium.

Amidst the unceasing buzz around Bhutia, the Bayern stood out with their world class performance, something which they had promised on the eve of the match.

Not surprisingly, the Bavarians planted themselves in the Indian half, and till the interval gave the Indians only one chance, albeit a feeble one, to have a go at their goal.
The hosts looked subdued in the opening minutes, perhaps in awe of their opponents and the Germans did not lose time in showing they meant business.

Mario Gomez opened the account in the 14th minute after a skirmish at the goalpost and assisted by some shoddy work by the Indian defenders.

That opened the floodgates for Bayern with Thomas Mueller scoring successive goals in the 29th and 37th minutes.

Bastian Schweinsteiger showed he was fit for the forthcoming Bundesliga games when he scored with a right-footer from outside the box in the 43rd minute. India entered the second half 0-4 down. It could have been worse but for some fine saves by goalkeeper Karanjit Singh.

The Indians, making several replacements at the outset of the second half with most of them being juniors, returned a spirited lot, attacking and defending with vigour. Substitute goalkeeper Subashish Roychowdhury also came up with some sharp saves to keep Bayern at bay. It was indeed creditable that the hosts did not concede a goal in the entire second half.

All in all, the Indians could have done a shade better, maybe scored a goal, been less defensive, but they certainly did not embarrass themselves. It was a day to savour for lovers of Indian football, which will not be the same without Bhaichung Bhutia.

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