Jewel Raja's opener was cancelled by a Lee Tai Lin header and the game seemed set to end in a draw, before Robin Singh headed home a vital winner...
India started their AFC Challenge Cup 2014 Qualification campaign at the Youth Training Centre, Yangon, Myanmar on Saturday with a win, as they edged to a 2-1 win against a spirited Chinese Taipei side.
The Blue Tigers started in a 4-5-1 formation, with Subrata Paul, Nirmal Chettri, Gurjinder Kumar and Jewel Raja handed a start in place of Sandip Nandy, Denzil Franco, Syed Rahim Nabi and Alwyn George, who had started the friendly against Palestine.
India started the brighter of the two teams and kept the ball with confidence and played short, probing passes.
On the 13th minute though, it was their opponents who got the first chance of the game. Taipei got a free kick from 28 yards out, and midfielder Su De Cai's effort forced Subrata into an amazing save.
Soon after, India’s midfielder Mehtab Hussain got a big chance, as he was released into a one-on-one situation against the opposition goalkeeper, but he failed to put the ball past him. Taipei replied with an effort of their own, when midfielder Hung Kai Chun's cross into the area was met by Chen Yi Wei, whose shot from just 6 yards away from goal, was saved by Subrata.
Taipei employed zonal marking system in defense and tried to hit India on the counter attack, in a bid to snuff out India's offensive threat. On 29 minutes Francisco Fernandes found Miranda on the left wing, and just when it looked like the Blue Tigers could open up the opposition's stubborn defense, the assistant referee raised the offside flag. Throughout the half, India got many corner kicks, but Taipei’s back line cleared all of them.
On 37th minute, India’s captain Chhetri passed the ball to Mehtab, and his brilliant effort was met with an equally good save by the keeper.
India continued attacking with vigour, and all of Taipei’s back line had their hands full, in order to block them. But Chhetri's pass to Jewel Raja broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. The midfielder who was running into free space, was well found by Chhetri. With just the keeper to beat, the Mohun Bagan player slotted the ball home with his right foot, a lead that Wim Koevermans' side maintained, heading into half-time.
When the second half started, Taipei put in a more better performance than in the first half. Taipei’s striker He Ming Chan was replaced by Tai Hung Hsu, in a tactical move to improve the side's attacking threat. On the 54th minute, Taipei got a corner kick. Chiang Mu-tsai's side made the most of it, as Lee Tai Lin headed it home from a well directed corner by Su de Cai. The goal was just rewards for Taipei, who were more offensive in the second half.
In the 57th minute, Chhetri fashioned a chance for himself after dribbling past a couple of players. His shot from 26 yards was just over the bar.
In the 66th minute, Chang Fu Hsiang was replaced by Chan Che Yuan. At that time, Rahim Nabi came in for Francisco Fernandes. Taipei also substituted, Tsai Sheng An, who was replaced by Su De Cai. India threw everything forward in search of a winner, but good chances were wasted.
In the 81st minute, Koevermans threw in Robin Singh for Jewel, and the striker did not disappoint. The golden chance for India came in the 91st minute. Midfielder Nabi ran down the right wing and crossed into the box. Robin Singh rose majestically to head home a late winner, saving India's blushes.
Chinese Taipei had no time to muster a reply this time round, and the Blue Tigers got away with all three points, though the profligacy in-front of goal might come-back to haunt Wim Koevermans' side, later in the competition.
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