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India in second round of Olympic football qualifiers

March 09, 2011 19:00 IST

India scored a last-gasp equaliser to eke out a 1-1 draw against Myanmar in the return leg of the 2012 Olympic football qualifiers and advanced to the second round of the competition.

The Indian under-23 side, which had beaten Myanmar 2-1 in their home leg match in Pune 2-1 on February 23, won the first round tie on a 3-2 aggregate.

Striker C S Sabeeth, who came in place of Inderpreet Singh in the 83rd minute, got the equaliser in the 90th minute after Kyaw Koko had given Myanmar the lead in the 64th minute, at the Youth Training Centre ground in Yangon.

A 0-1 defeat would have put India out of the competition on the away goal rule.

India had beaten Myanmar in the first round of 2008 Olympic qualifiers before finishing last in a four-team group in the second round.

Coach Desmond Bulpin had to bring in Sabeeth as the third striker, in place of defender Inderpreet, in a desperate bid to get the equaliser and his ploy worked.

Collecting a long ball from the middle of the ground, Sabeeth cut in from the right of the Myanmar half and beat the home side goalkeeper with a fierce shot seconds before the end of normal time.

India and 10 other countries, who won their first round ties, now join the 13 highest-ranked teams of Asia in the second round, where they will again play in a home-and-away format on June 19 and 23.

After a barren first-half, Myanmar, egged on by a nearly 20,000 crowd, took the lead when Koko beat Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with a free-kick.

But two minutes later, Koko was red carded after his second booking of the match, and India had the one-man advantage in the last 25 minutes.

Immediately afterwards, Bulpin brought striker Robin Singh in place of Malswamfela which gave fresh impetus in attack.

Bulpin praised the fighting spirit of his boys in front of a sizeable hostile crowd.

"We knew it would be a tough match. No doubt, the Myanmarese were technically better than our boys. But my boys came out with flying colours with a 1-1 draw in front of a 20,000 hostile crowd. We also missed three good chances," Bulpin said after the match.

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