Baichung Bhutia celebrated his 100th match appearance for the country by scoring one and setting up another goal in India's 2-1 win over Kyrgyzstan in a round-robin fixture of the Nehru Cup International football tournament in New Delhi, on Sunday.
India thus bounced back into a final berth contention in the five-nation tournament after losing to Lebanon 0-1 in the opening match at the Ambedkar Stadium.
Bhutia, who started his international career in 1995 in the same tournament in Kolkata, scored in the 43rd minute before Sunil Chhetri converted a penalty in the 57th minute.
The penalty was awarded when Bhutia was brought down by the Kyrgyz goalkeeper Matiash Pavel inside the danger zone.
Murzaev Mirlan reduced the margin for Kyrgyzstan in the 89th minute.
Egged on a by a packed stadium, the Indian attack was a lot more sharper with the return of Chhetri, who started in place of Sushil Singh, and the Delhi striker showed his class with a lot good moves which made the Kyrgyz defence nervy on many occasions.
With the ground shorn of tall grass, conducive for Bob Houghton's boys to play short-passing football, India raided the Kyrgyzstan citadel a number of times with most of the moves from the right flank via Steven Dias, who also created havoc with his crosses and free kicks.
Kyrgyzstan goalkeeper Pavel was a busy man throughout the match coming out of his line to collect repeated crosses from Indian flanks.
Play remain mostly in the Kyrgyz half with the Central Asians making attacks on Indian goal once in a while mostly via neat passing between their two strikers Zemlianuhin Anton and Mirzaliev Almazbek.
Bhutia, who was later adjudged man of the match, put India ahead two minutes before the breather.
Goalkeeper's Paul's goal-kick landed on Bhutia's feet after Chhetri and a Kyrgyz defender went for the ball but missed the flight.
The India captain then turned round and sent a low left footer from a very narrow angle which beat the goalkeeper to find the net after first hitting the far post.
In the sixth minute, NP Pradeep got a free header off a cross from Dias from a move initiated by Chhetri. Pradeep got the height of his header right but not the direction.
In the next minute, another header from close range by Chhetri off a high cross from Deepak Mondal, who came in for injured Surkumar Singh, went over the Kyrgyz crossbar.
In the 10th minute, Indian defenders were, however, caught napping and a Zemlianuhin Anton pass saw Harchenko Vladim through inside the penalty box but Indian goalkeeper Subrata Paul made a fine save by diving to his left.
The Indians continued the second half from where they left in the first session and in the fourth minute after the breather Climax Lawrence's right-footed flick off a Dias low cross was blocked by the Kyrgyz goalkeeper and Bhutia's left footer off the rebound kissed the outside of right upright.
A Mahesh Gawli shot off his right foot in the 53rd minute was then punched out in the nick of time by Kyrgyz goalkeeper Pavel near the left top corner of the net.
The incessant Indian attack paid off in the 57th minute.
Bhutia was brought down by the Kyrgyz goalkeeper after the Indian captain had got past him off a pass from Chhetri inside the penalty box after Dias had initiated the move.
Chhetri coolly sent the ball past Pavel's left side into the net to double the lead. Kyrgyzstan could have reduced the margin three minutes later but for a missed penalty by Mirzaliev Almazbek who was tripped by Gouramangi Singh after Anwar fumbled to clear the ball deep inside the box.
Indian goalkeeper Paul dived to his right to block the spot kick. Late into the match, the Indian defence was found wanting in a couple of occasions which allowed the Kyrgyz making some shots at the home team goal.
Amirov Ildar got two shots, one hitting the Indian crossbar while the other was blocked by Paul. Second half substitute Sidorenko Pavel then misfired from close range in the 84th minute.
But the Kyrgyz were not to be denied a goal and second half substitute striker Murzaev Mirlan found the target in the 89th minute after being fed by defender Chikishev Sergey.
India play their third round-robin match against Sri Lanka on Wednesday.