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AFC Challenge Cup: India lose to Tajikistan

March 09, 2012 19:04 IST

Defending champions India made a disastrous start to their AFC Challenge Cup campaign, going down 0-2 to Tajikistan in Kathmandu, on Friday.

After a barren, but evenly contested first half, the Indians let in two goals after the hour mark, Akhtam Khamrakulov (60th minute) and Nuriddin Davronov (66th) finding the target for Tajikistan, in the Group B match at Dasarath Deb Stadium.

Incidentally, India had hammered Tajikistan 4-1 in the last edition of the AFC Challenge Cup.

India, who won the 2008 edition of the tournament at home, are now left with the huge task of winning both their remaining matches -- against Philippines (March 11) and North Korea (March 13) – to qualify for the semi-finals.

The winners of the AFC Challenge Cup will automatically qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

The first half saw both sides having almost equal ball possession and shots at goal, with India relying on quick counter attacks and goalkeeper Karanjit Singh producing some fine saves.

But, after the changeover, the Indian midfield was found wanting and Tajikistan made a series of attacks to put Savio Medeira's boys under pressure.

At the hour mark, a cross from the left deflected off Syed Rahim Nabi and a lurking Khamroqulov fired the ball in to give his side the lead.

Six minutes later, Tajikistan doubled the lead when Nuruddin Davronov finding the target.

India made a last-ditched effort with Savio Medeira bringing in fresh legs.

Jewel Raja came in place of off-colour Anthony Pereira in the 69th minute while Joaquim Abranches replaced out-of-sorts Sushil Kumar Singh in the 81st minute, but that did not make much of a difference as India failed to create enough scoring chances.

Abranches made an impact as soon as he came on. In the 83rd minute, he unleashed a fierce right-footer which Tajikistan goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev palmed away for a corner.

India captain Sunil Chhetri made some good moves but failed to get a clear shot on target at the Tajikistan goal in the entire match.

In another Group B match, North Korea beat Philippines 2-0 at Halchowk Stadium.

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