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Chhetri's late goal takes India to final

August 07, 2008 20:28 IST

India rode on a late goal by Sunil Chhetri to beat Myanmar 1-0 under unplayable ground conditions and enter the final of the AFC Challenge Cup football tournament in Hyderabad on Thursday.

Striker Chhetri scored the all-important goal in the 82nd minute of the semi-final with a fine header after being set up by captain Baichung Bhutia.

Playing on a ground unsuitable for an international match, the game depended more on factors not connected with football.

In the first half, which failed to produce any goal, the pitch was better despite the top surface crumbling due to lot of rain over the past few days. But after a heavy downpour during the breather, the Gachibowli Stadium ground turned into a muddy field, with pools of water in the middle, and the ball stopping once it dropped on the water.

Myanmar had more of the attacks initially but the hosts pressed hard towards the close of the first half and should have taken the lead but for Chhetri.

India had the first look at the rival goal in the second minute itself but captain Baichung shot straight to Myanmar custodian Aung Aung Oo.

Seven minutes later, Climax Lawrence was prevented from taking a shot by a Myanmarese defender after being fed by N P Pradeep.

Myanmar mainly initiated their attacks from the right flank, with Kyaw Moe Aung doing a lot of overlapping runs and sending crosses for strikers Yan Paing and Soe Min Yat.

Aung himself had a powerful shot at the Indian goal but the ball went straight to goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

India had a close shave in the 15th minute when Mynamar striker Soe Min cut through the box after getting the better of Anwar Ali and Samir Naik but his shot was palmed way by an alert Paul.

Two minutes later, Pradeep headed wide from a Renedy Singh floater from the left edge of the box.

In the 23rd minute, it was Myanmar's turn to have a chance at the India goal but Yan Paing's shot from a close range was blocked by Ali.

Eked on by a 2500-odd crowd, India almost took the lead in the last five minutes of the first half. A Renedy free-kick in the 40th minute went past Myanmar goalkeeper after a tussle with Baichung but Khin Muang Lwin cleared it from the goal-line for a corner.

Two minutes later, Chhetri wasted the easiest of the chances. After being fed by Pradeep and the ball stopping due to heavy ground conditions on his foot, with only the Myanmar goalkeeper to beat, he missed the target by inches.

A minute before the breather, Climax Lawrence headed wide off a pass from Steven Dias.

However, after the breather, India showed better adaptability and got a couple of shots at the opposition goal in the first few minutes.

First, in the 56th minute, Climax shot over from just outside the box and two minutes later Baichung was clear in front of the goal after being fed by Pradeep but the India skipper's right footer hit the side net of the near post.

Six minutes later, a Baichung pass to Pradeep was shot straight to Myanmar goalkeeper by the latter.

In the 78th minute, Myanmar were denied a goal by the crossbar when substitute Si Thu Win's header from a right flank cross beat India custodian Paul all ends up.

Eight minutes from time, Chhetri scored the all-important goal for India after Baichung's initiative.

Getting the ball just outside the rival box, the Indian skipper got the better of his marker and then sent a floater for Chhetri, who held the ball with a first header and then nodded home with a second to the wild celebrations of Indian supporters.

The South East Asians made some last-ditch efforts to level the score but the Indians held forth to book a ticket for a summit clash on Sunday.

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