Goalkeeper Paul is India's hero
Goalkeeper Subrata Paul's heroics were the highlight of a dramatic summit clash as defending champions India beat Syria 6-5 via the tie-breaker to win the five-nation Nehru Cup international football Tournament at the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi on Monday night.
Paul conjured up a special performance, saving as many as three penalty shots, as India emerged triumphant in the penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 deadlock at the end of full-time and 30 minutes of extra-time.
Backed by a vociferous 20,000 crowd that also included Bollywood actor Salman Khan, India appeared to have the match wrapped up after second-half substitute Renedy Singh, who later failed to scored in the penalty shoot-out, struck in the 114th minute. But Syrian midfielder Weal Ayan equalised with a header in the last minute of extra-time time (120th minute) to take the tie to the shoot-out.
The second consecutive top finish in the tournament also marked a hat-trick of titles in just over two years by India, under coach Bob Houghton.
India had won the tournament in 2007 and added another title by clinching the AFC Challenge Cup last year, which gave the country a berth in the 2011 Asian Cup in Doha.
The win by Houghton's boys also meant that India became only the third country in the history of the Nehru Cup to defend the title after the then USSR (1985, 86, 87) and Iraq (1995, 96).