A gritty India thwarted a wave of Chinese onslaughts to play out a remarkable goal-less draw in an international football friendly played for the first time after 21 years between the two countries on Saturday.
In a keenly-watched match played between the two most populous countries in the world but still laggards in the global game, China clearly dominated the proceedings with several chances coming their way but they failed to get a goal.
Chinese forwards' goal drought continued while the Indians, especially the back-four of captain Sandesh Jhingan, Narayan Das, Pritam Kotal and Subhasish Bose, played their hearts out to held their nerves till the end.
The home side had at least three clear chances with two being denied by the woodwork while their star striker Gao Lin failed to find the target several times. Custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu stood like a rock in front of the Indian goal as he denied the home side at least on four occasions.
It was a remarkable achievement for India as they have drawn against a continental top side like China in their own den. India were playing on the Chinese soil for the first time and there were periods in the match, though few and far between, when the visitors threatened on the counters. The draw is also expected to take India higher in the FIFA rankings. The Blue Tigers are now placed 97th while China is placed 76th on the rankings.
India had two very good chances on either side of the breather, one from Pritam Kotal and another from substitute Farukh Choudhary, and a couple of half chances. But the visitors did not give an inch to the Chinese attackers, led by veteran Gao Lin who has played more than 100 international matches.
Indian keeper Gurpreet Singh was kept on his toes throughout the match. He was called into action as early as the seventh minute, but the scores remained unaffected after Jinghan made a timely clearance for a corner following Yu Dabao's shot.
The Indians grew in confidence as the match wore on and they even had a very good chance in the 13th minute when Sunil Chhetri passed the ball back to Pranoy Halder who whipped a diagonal pass to Anirudh Thapa who, in turn, laid it the path for an onrushing Kotal. But Kotal's fierce shot from the right side of the box was parried away by Chinese goalie Yan Junling. That was the best chance India had in the first half.
Two minutes later, Gao had a free header from a corner but the resulting freekick made its way straight into Gurpreet's hands. India got a free kick in the 17th minute and Thapa's delivery found an unmarked Chhetri, but Indian skipper's first-time shot sailed over the bar.
Meanwhile, halfway through the first half, Gurpreet again pulled off a fine save as he blocked a low shot from Gao after a defensive mistake by the Indians. This meant the team headed into the break with scores locked at 0-0.
As soon as the second half began, Gao rattled Gurpreet's crossbar in the 48th minute but a few minutes later Udanta Singh was set up by Holicharan Narzary but the Manipuri made a haste of it as his shot went into the crowd.
The 71st minute also saw the Indian crossbar being rattled by a Wu Lei volley and it was pure luck for India as Gurpreet was completely beaten that time. Five minutes later, Gurpreet again pulled off another fine save to deny a Xiao Zhi header from a corner.
Towards the end of the regulation time, there was a scramble near the Indian goal-line but the visiting side, who desperately threw their bodies towards the close of the match, survived as the match ended in a stalemate.