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India edge past Maldives
December 04, 2006 07:34 IST
Super-sub Subhash Chakraborty's brilliant goal in the 89th minute enabled India pip Maldives 2-1 in a Group D match and keep alive their hopes for a berth in the knock-out stage of the football competition of the Asian Games in Doha on Sunday night.
Baichung Bhutia set up Subhash and the latter did not let his skipper down, scoring a fantastic goal.
It was a must-win match and the Indians, after exerting tremendous pressure on their rivals, got the breakthrough in the dying moments to collect full points.
However, India suffered a setback when Baichung was shown a yellow card in the 80th minute for pushing the rival goalkeeper; the skipper will not be playing against Iran in the last league match as this was his second successive yellow card, having received one against Hong Kong in the opener.
India made a rather sluggish start as their midfielders and forwards could not get their act. Maldives tried to capitalise on the confusion in the ranks but could not do much.
India, however, got into the groove after 15 minutes and started taking control of the midfield. They seemed to be more under pressure to score but their star striker Bhutia was effectively marked. The skipper, however, soon did well to unshackle himself from the marksmen and made a few good moves.
Playing 4-4-2, the Indians made their intentions clear and included Debabrata Roy in place of Habibur Rehman but it seemed that Maldives had anticipated their game plan and crowded their defence.
Most of the time, the ball was confined in the midfield with the Indians piling up the pressure but not being able to get the crucial breakthrough.
The Indian midfielders -- Steven Dias, Bungo Singh, Gourmangi Singh and Climax Lawrence -- combined well and kept feeding Bhutia and Manjit Singh up front.
N Pradeep also kept the flanks active with some good moves up front; he also displayed good speed and stamina by rushing back to beef up the defence.
Maldives too made some good forays into the Indian camp with Fazeel Ibrahim and Ashad Ali leading the charge.
The Indians soon retaliated, Pradeep intercepted a ball in the rival half and after cutting past couple of rival players, unleashed a powerful long ranger but Maldives goalkeeper Imran Mohammed bought off a great save.
In the 34 minute, India finally struck. Baichung set up Climax Lawrence, who squared a pass to Surkumar Singh and the latter's 30-yard shot dropped in front of goalkeeper and then slipped in (1-0).
The lead, however, lasted barely three minutes as Maldives launched a counter-attack and created confusion in the Indian defence. Ashfaq Ali made a move from the right, darted past Debabrata Roy and outwitted N S Manju and with an angular shot sent the ball home - 1-1.
The second session saw the Indians all over their rival half with Baichung leading from the front even though the goal continued to elude them for sometime.
Gourmangi Singh's header was cleared by a defender on the goalline while Pradeep's shot hit the bar. Baichung made a few good solo moves but could not find the target.
However, the Indians were rewarded for their hard work in the 89th minute when substitute Subhash Chakraborty latched on to a Baichung pass and shot home (2-1).