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Valiant India go down to Syria
August 23, 2007 22:19 IST
A resilient India gave their best but fell short by a whisker, going down 2-3 against tournament favourites Syria in the ONGC [Get Quote] Nehru Cup football in New Delhi on Thursday.
India may found themselves on the wrong end of the result but they certainly won the hearts of the sizeable number of fans who cheered them vociferously.
Zyad Chaabo underlined his quality with two goals for the Syria while Khaled M Albaba chipped in with one.
Sunil Chetri and Ajayan Nair found the net for the home side.
The match was played at a fast pace with both teams mounting attacks and lived upto its billing. Particularly impressive was the large crowd who cheered every move. The roar at the strike from Nair would have brought the roof down, if there had been one.
Local lad Chetri, who was out of sorts against Bangladesh in the last match, put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute, much to the delight of the 10,000-strong crowd at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Skipper Baichung Bhutia showed good skill in the opponents' half before passing to Climax Lawrence. The midfielder found Chetri at the edge of the box and the JCT forward found the target even as a hand from custodian Mowssab Blahowss could not stop the ball from rolling into the net.
The goal and the support of a large crowd gave a fillip to Bob Houghton's side as they created some nice moves but it was not long before the Syrians got their teeth into the game.
Syria were especially dangerous with their long aerial passes while Indians impressed with their short passing.
Syria equalised with Khaled Albaba heading a corner from captain Maher Al Sayed in the 24th minute. Keeper Subrata Paul came off line but could not get to the ball.
The match gathered momentum after that but Syria went into the break on a high when they got the crucial second goal.
Al Sayed ran on a through ball when N S Manju failed to clear it and presented an easy tap in for Zyad Chaabo in the 46th minute.
India started the second half briskly but Chaabo dealt a big blow when he rifled a scorching shot in the top corner midway through the half. The ball was deflected off Gourmangi Singh's shoulder, giving Paul no chance swelling Syria's lead to 3-1 in 66th minute.
When it seemed that India were dead and buried, substitute Ajayan Nair revived Indian hopes with what would unarguably be the goal of the tournament so far.
He dribbled past three Syrian defenders and unleashed a ferocious left-footer which almost burst the net.
As India went for the equaliser in the final nine minutes, they piled up the pressure and matters became quite heated with Houghton repeatedly arguing with the officials.
India came close late in the game when a free-kick from Steven Dias found the side netting and a rasping shot from N P Pradeep was palmed away by Blahowss.
Houghton fielded Gourmangi in defence replacing the injured Deepak Mondal and he put the stronger Syrian forwards in check, especially in the first half.
A fit-again Pradeep was also a major plus for India.
Clifford Miranda, who played instead of Renedy Singh and Mehrajuddin Wadoo, was also full of energy.
Before the match, Houghton had said that the game will not decide if India had made progress under him in the past few months.
But even in defeat, the team showed its fighting quality proving that considerable progress has come about under the Englishman. With a bit of luck, India could have finished on level terms.
India now need at least a draw in their final round robin match against Kyrgyzstan on Sunday.