Defender Jerry Lalrinzuala scored a spectacular long range goal as India beat Nepal 1-0 in the final to win the South Asian Football Federation Under-16 Championship at the Dasharath stadium in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
India, represented by the All India Football Federation's Regional Academy, got the all-important goal in the 18th minute.
Latching on to a loose ball just outside the 18-yard box, Lalrinzuala unleashed a powerful left-footed 35-yard shot that went past the Nepal goalkeeper to the far left corner of the net.
Birthday boy Jerry could not have asked for a better gift. The 14-year old Mizoram lad impressed with his darting overlaps down the left flank and was rewarded for his performance.
The early goal stunned the partisan home crowd into silence and enabled the team return unbeaten from the biennial tournament.
On a rain-soaked afternoon in Kathmandu, India dominated proceedings from the first whistle as the boys showing exemplary maturity to play according to the heavy ground conditions.
The Indian lads continued to impress post the breather as the rain kept pouring down and Jerry almost doubled his tally 10 minutes into the second half, but his free-kick from just outside the box went inches wide.
Then, in the 66th minute, midfielder Deependra Singh Negi's attempt from close was fisted away by the Nepal custodian.
Nepal made desperate attempts to restore parity late in the match, but the visiting side’s defence was rock-solid.
If skipper Jayananda Singh's last-ditch tackle in the 84th minute saved a sure goal, goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh had a match to remember as he made some crucial saves to keep the hosts at bay, especially in the last quarter of the match.
Head coach Gautam Ghosh lauded his boys after the victory.
"The triumph shows that we are on the tight track. It all began from scratch when we roped in talented boys from all parts of the country," an elated Ghosh said.
"But, having said that, this was a final and a positive result would always have an inspirational effect on the boys. I'm proud of them, the manner they held on in front of a 20,000-plus partisan crowd," he added.
"The message from national coach Wim Koevermans and captain Sunil Chhetri had a huge influence on the boys. We all look up to them and a message from them to the Under-15 kids meant a lot. We are happy that we have been to keep everyone smiling."
Image: The victorious India team after beating Nepal in the final
Photograph: AIFF Media Team