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Uzbekistan win football gold
October 31, 2003 22:14 IST
Innomov Islam scored with a long-range shot in injury time as Uzbekistan stunned India 1-0 in the football final at the Afro-Asian Games on Friday night.
In a keenly-fought final, Uzbekistan, who fielded their under-20 team for the tournament had agreater share of ball possession and made several forays into the Indian goal area, but the defence and keeper Sangaram Mukherjee did well to keep their forwards at bay.
But with minutes ticking away for the final whistle, Islam surprised the Indian defence with the right-footer from way outside the box.
The result came as a bolt from the blue for the hosts, who put up an impressive performance right through the tournament. It also dashed veteran I M Vijayan's dream of ending his international career on a winning note.
However, Vijayan had the distinction of emerging the top scorer in the tournament with the four goals.
The match began on a dramatic note with India claiming a goal in the first minute itself after a throw in by Selwyn Fernandes. The ball appeared to have gone straight into the goal without touching Jo Paul Ancheri, who was inside the box.
In the sixth minute, Vijayan came up with a header, but Uzbekistan goalkeeper Nesterov Ignatiy just managed to tip it over the horizontal.
Ten minutes later, Uzbekistan forward Geynrikh Alexander, who starred in most of the attacks by his side, took a shot at the goal and Mukherjee had few problems in collecting the ball.
India had another good chance in the 25th minute when a diving Rennedy Singh shot out following pass from Jatin Singh Bisht. A few minutes later, Tomba Singh sent in a cracking right-footer but the Uzbek keeper collected it neatly.
In the second half, the Indians played better and created more openings and made quick substitutions. Vijayan had a couple of tries but could not find the target.
Uzbekistan also had a few chances. In the 78th minute Alexander came up with a good right-footer, but Mukherjee just managed to clear it.
"We were in the final of an inter-continental meet for the first time in many years. But we did not put them under adequate pressure. Particularly in the first half, we allowed them to hold the edge. I am disappointed as also the boys about the result," Indian coach Stephen Constantine said.
On the performance of Uzbekistan, he described the team as a good side. "Any age group they may belong to, but they are good, solid side. They fought well and had a slice of luck also," he said, referring to the last minute goal.
He also said the Indians were unlucky to have been denied the opening minute goal as "some of the boys told me he ([ncheri] touched the ball. But from my position I can't make any comments about the referee," he added.
Bhutia also felt luck was on the side of Uzebkistan.
"From that range to get in a ball requires a bit of luck. We missed a couple of chances, but that is part of the game," a disappointed Bhutia said.
Uzbekistan coach Broisov Viktor said today was a big day for his team. "We surprised India. Everybody thought India will play better, but we came good. I am happy that this young team has taken the title. This will help us further in preparation for the Junior World Cup to be played in United Arab Emirates," he added.
Asked who in the Indian team impressed him, he named Vijayan, Bhutia and Shanmugham Venkatesh, who replaced Ancheri in the later part of the second half.
In the play off match between Zimbabwe and Rwanda, Zimbabwe won 7-5 via the tie-breaker after the scores were level 2-2 at full-time, to take the bronze.