India beat Cameroon 5-4 (2-2) on penalties in the final to win the Nehru Cup football tournament, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in New Delhi, on Sunday.
After both teams were tied 2-2 despite 120 minutes, Robin Singh, Sunil Chhetri, Denzel Franco, Mehtab Hossain and Clifford Miranda scored from the spot, while Makon Thierry muffed -- he hit the post -- for Cameroon.
India played like a team for the future. Paint the larger picture, that of the entire 12-day meet, and there are bright spots and only bright spots.
Keeping in mind Lakshya 2022 in Technical Director Rob Baan's Master Plan, India is indeed going in the right direction as coach Wim Koevermans always maintains.
India did not blink from the first whistle. They broke opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Gouramangi Singh nodded home a Clifford Miranda free-kick, with goalkeeper Ngome Lawrence out of his line.
Lawrence picked an injury soon after and was replaced by Nkessi Hosea.
While Lawrence was being nursed, India lost the momentum and the 'Indomitable Lions' capitalised to get the all-important equaliser.
Makon Thierry's powerful shot from just outside the box beat Subrata Pal. The score remained one-all till the interval.
Changing over, India almost scored. A diving Gouramangi could not connect after Nabi had floated the ball inside the 28-yard box from the middle of the pitch.
Minutes later, Cameroon took the lead in the 52nd minute through top scorer Kingue Mpondo. The African giants used their physical superiority coupled with never ending stamina to bog the hosts down. But India refused to surrender.
Chhetri was brought down by substitute custodian Hosea after Mehtab Hossain had set him up beautifully. The diminutive India captain equalised from the spot to set the crowd celebrating.
From then, it was India all the way. Chhetri almost doubled his tally after Francis Fernandes played a delightful cross into the area in the 83rd minute. The teams could not be separated in regulation time.
India enjoyed the upperhand in the first half of extra-time and should have taken the lead again -- Robin Singh's free header sailing over the bar in the 105th minute. As time wore on and penalties loomed large after the breather, the tension was palpable on the field.
Finally, the whistle blew for the final time and it was time for the penalties.
India scored from all five attempts and won the Nehru Cup for the third time.
Ashu C Tambe, Ousmalia, Bebey Kingue Paul and Mpondo scored for the visitors while Makkon hit the post, leaving Cameroon shattered.