The Blue Tigers were lucky to earn three points against their arch rivals despite not giving a good account of themselves...
By Anselm Noronha with Ayush Srivastava at the stadium
An own goal by Pakistan's Samar Ishaq was enough for India as they registered a 1-0 victory over Pakistan in their SAFF Championship opener at the Dashrath Rangshala Stadium, Nepal.
Wim Koevermans made four changes from the line-up that started against Tajikistan last month in a friendly where they lost 3-0. Raju Gaikwad, Jewel Raja and Sandip Nandy had been dropped whereas Clifford Miranda wasn’t selected for the competition. In came Jeje Lalpekhlua, Subrata Paul, Alwyn George and Nallapan Mohanraj.
The defending champions started on an attacking note earning three corners in the first five minutes, but were unable to produce anything of note.
In the 14th minute, a harmless cross by Nirmal Chettri into the box saw a mix-up between defenders Kamran Khan and Samar Ishaq, which resulted in the ball taking a touch of the latter before rolling into his net.
The first real chance for Pakistan came in the 24th minute as Muhammad Riaz blazed his shot over the bar after some great link-up play between Hassan Bashir and Muhammad Adil which had set him free in the box.
India were seen playing some aimless long balls which didn’t make for a good viewing. However, they could have gone 2-0 just after the half hour mark when goalkeeper Yousof Butt slipped in his attempt to clear the ball ahead of an onrushing Sunil Chhetri, but recovered in time to clear the danger.
Pakistan almost equalized two minutes later when Bashir was allowed too much space outside the box, whose fierce shot however came off the post.
Subrata Paul was forced into his first save just before the half-time as Kaleem Ullah's shot was matched by the India custodian’s brilliance in between the sticks, while Nirmal Chettri scrambled the ball clear.
The Shahins began the second half with purpose with Adil and Bashir failing to get to the end of the other’s pass. At the hour mark, Adil went past Mohanraj with ease and cut past Arnab Mondal before squaring it for Riaz whose effort was first cleared by Gouramangi Moirangthem and Nirmal Chettri respectively.
Sunil Chhetri, after being denied of any service by his team-mates, saw his shot being parried wide by Butt in the 68th minute. He had a couple of half chances that came his way but unfortunately his finishing deserted him.
The best chance of the game fell for Francis Fernandes as his snapshot from inside the box after being played in by Jeje went wide.
Towards the closing stages, Pakistan threw bodies upfront in the search of an equalizer but it failed to yield any result.
India next face Bangladesh and need to improve by leaps and bounds as they were guilty of giving away the ball far too easily. On the other hand, Pakistan will turn up next against Nepal wherein they need to earn three points.
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